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Mothers and babies first

Despite the bursting of the Celtic Tiger economic bubble, the Irish baby boom continues unabated. The number of births this year is expected to at least match the 73,724 recorded in 2011.

The continuing increase in the number of births at a time when health budgets are being cut has inevitably put maternity services under pressure.

This is particularly so in Dublin where just three maternity hospitals, the Coombe, the Rotunda and the National Maternity Hospital, are responsible for 28,000 deliveries, almost 40pc of the national total. The situation in Dublin is further complicated by the fact that the capital's maternity hospitals are positively geriatric with even the "new" Coombe being almost 45 years old. This combination of dilapidated facilities and record numbers of deliveries is clearly not satisfactory.

Today we publish internal correspondence between the Dublin maternity hospitals and the HSE in which the maternity hospitals voice their concerns at the current situation. The ideal solution would clearly be to relocate the Dublin maternity hospitals to new facilities next to existing general hospitals, a move that was recommended by consultants KPMG in 2008.

Until that becomes possible, Health Minister James Reilly must ensure that maternity services are prioritised and that the well-being of mothers and their babies isn't jeopardised.

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