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Rotunda boss criticises lack of intensive care units


Sam Coulter-Smith, Master of the Rotunda Hospital

Sam Coulter-Smith, Master of the Rotunda Hospital

Sam Coulter-Smith, Master of the Rotunda Hospital

The head of a Dublin hospital has spoken out about the slow pace of improvement in maternity care in Ireland nearly two years on from the death of Savita Halappanavar.

Ireland's three largest maternity hospitals do not have intensive care units and The Rotunda's Dr Sam Coulter Smith said 10 of his sickest patients had to travel by ambulance for care elsewhere in 2013.

"In 21st century Ireland that is really awful that we have to separate mothers and babies in those situations and send a mother in an ambulance to another hospital," he said.

"We have the guts of 30,000 deliveries in Dublin every year. Some of those are complicated and because of that they need access to intensive care, they need access to interventional radiology.

"They need access to the sort of services that can only be provided in a modern teaching general hospital and we currently don't have that situation.

He said Dublin's other maternity hospitals are in the same predicament.


Speaking to Newstalk, Dr Coulter Smith said a raft of reports on how to improve the sector have been published over the last ten years and yet "very little, almost nothing" has been done to deal with the issue.

He said the number of births are on the rise and as far back as 2007 a KPMG report highlighted a shortage of midwives and medical personnel.


"We still have the same infrastructure and in around the same or less staff that we had at that point so the situation has actually got significantly worse rather than better," he said.

"As time has gone by, as we have got busier, the complexity of cases that we deal with has increased. We get transfers of patients from all over the country to each of our Dublin hospitals.

"Nobody is looking at the overall picture as to how we improve the infrastructure, how we improve the staffing levels, how we actually get back to a point where we have a suitable number of obstetricians and a suitable number of midwives employed in each of our hospitals to cater for the huge increase in demand that we have."

He said the hospital received a communication from the Department of Health "in the last couple of months" saying they want to look at the possibility of co-locating maternity hospitals with intensive care facilities.

"I am grateful that happened ... but we still have a problem," Dr Coulter-Smith said.

"Even if we agree that these things should happen, by the time we actually co-locate and build these institutions we are talking about three, four, five, six, maybe even 10 years down the line."

"We are still putting a huge number of people at risk during that time so we really need action very quickly on this and to get in and talk to the minister and convince the Department of Finance and anybody who is interested in this that this is an important subject," he added.

"The health of our mothers and babies is the flagship of our health service and it is something that needs to be invested in."