MATERNITY units around the country are 35pc understaffed, putting the safety and care of mothers giving birth at risk, according to a survey by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
It shows the 19 maternity units are understaffed by 621 nurses leaving us well behind international standards.
The INMO says that in the three Dublin maternity hospitals, it ranges from a shortfall of 118 midwives at the Rotunda and 76 at the Coombe to a shortfall of 74 midwives at Holles Street.
Portlaoise maternity unit, which hit the headlines after a recent report into baby deaths found services there were unsafe and unsustainable, is the most understaffed unit in the country with one midwife to every 55 births. It needs 33 more midwives.
The Coombe hospital in Dublin, designated as the support for Portlaoise in the wake of that report, is itself severely understaffed with a midwife ratio of one nurse to every 40 births – a shortage of 76 nurses.
The INMO survey shows that not one maternity unit in this country reaches the internationally recommended ratio of one midwife to 29.5 births.
The National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street has a ratio of one midwife for every 39 births, the Coombe has a ratio of one in 40 births and the Rotunda has a ratio of one nurse to every 48 births, putting its levels among the worst in the country. The INMO is meeting the Department of Health later this month to discuss the crisis and has also sought a meeting with the HSE.
They have written to the Chair of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Jerry Buttimer, seeking an immediate meeting with that committee.
The nurses want an immediate lifting of the recruitment moratorium, an immediate recruitment drive for midwives as well as the launch of a Back to Midwifery programme in all major centres and a restart of postgraduate programmes. INMO general secretary Liam Doran (inset) says the survey "confirms we are over 620 midwives short of the number needed to deliver safe, better and high quality care to mothers and babies".
Meanwhile, risks to patients at the Midlands Hospital in Portlaoise are to be assessed by an independent investigation into the hospital. It will build on the findings made by the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan.