Monday 14 October 2019

Maternity facilities are like 'cattle marts' - TD tells Dáil

Criticism: Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers attacked the Government’s record
Criticism: Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers attacked the Government’s record
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Maternity facilities in some hospitals have been compared to "cattle marts" as the Dáil heard strong criticism of the standards of care for pregnant women and new mothers.

Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers said the standards of care for pregnant women fall well below what is expected.

"Ireland is not anywhere near top of the league when it comes to having a baby in safe and dignified care," she told the Dáil last night.

Comparing some hospitals to "cattle marts", the Mayo deputy cited a situation where six women who had given birth were "crammed" into one room with their newborns.

In another instance she had heard of a woman, who had given birth less than 24 hours earlier, being asked to sit in a chair while hospital staff cleaned her bed for the next patient.

A Fianna Fáil motion calling for better standards of maternity care was debated by TDs yesterday evening.

Health Minister Simon Harris hit back at the opposition party's criticism, saying its "new-found interest in maternity care stands in stark contrast to their record".

"Fianna Fáil governments, with all the bounty of a booming economy at their disposal, did not rebuild Holles Street or the Coombe or the Rotunda, set up a HSE which did not have a Women and Infants Health Programme, and didn't even have a national maternity strategy," he said.

Opposition TDs said the Government had been slow to act on the maternity strategy since it had been published in 2016.

One of the main issues highlighted was difficulties in obtaining foetal anomaly scans with Ms Chambers saying it can be a "postcode lottery" with inconsistencies across the country.

"In some parts of the country you get better scans than in other areas," she said. "Getting a scan at 20 weeks isn't always possible."

Mr Harris said additional funding was made available to hire 28 new sonographers to read scans to provide 100pc access to the service. "The strategy is unambiguous about anomaly scanning, stipulating that all women must have equal access to standardised ultrasound services," he said.

He added that all 19 maternity units in the country will offer full access to anomaly scanning by the end of this year, adding there had been a "sustained and long overdue" focus on maternity services in recent years.

The motion was tabled by Fianna Fáil's Stephen Donnelly who said many of the State's maternity facilities are "not fit for purpose".

Irish Independent

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