New National Maternity Strategy offers range of care options

Maternity services here have come under fire in recent years after deaths of both mothers and babies

New National Maternity Strategy offers range of care options

File photo: Rotunda hospital

Women are to be offered as natural a birth as possible, in a safe environment, under the new National Maternity Strategy.

The ten-year plan, which it is predicted will cost €52m, aims to improve safety and quality, as well as standardising care across all maternity units. The Department of Heath has called it “a fundamental overhaul of services.”

Announcing the report’s publication today, the Department said: “The Strategy recommends that maternity services should be woman-centred, and provide integrated, team-based care, with women seeing the most appropriate professional, based on their need. Every woman will have a named lead healthcare professional who will have overall clinical responsibility for her care.”

The strategy was developed in response to a number of baby deaths at Portlaoise Hospital, and the death of Savita Halappanavar at University Hospital Galway.

Following the death of Ms Halappanavar a HIQA report into the incident recommended a national strategy be drawn up to ensure a consistent model for the delivery of maternity services in Ireland.

The strategy will ensure that mothers and families will be offered choices regarding their maternity care, with their options depending on if they are classified as normal risk, medium risk or high risk.

Women considered a normal-risk will have the choice of supported care or assisted care. ‘Supported Care’ will offer midwives leading and delivering care, along with a midwifery team. Mothers in this bracket can also choose a home-delivery.

‘Assisted Care’ will be for mothers who are either at a medium-risk, or at a normal-risk who choose an obstetric service. The assisted care will be led by an obstetrician and delivered by obstetricians and midwives.

Thirdly, there is ‘Specialised Care’, for high-risk mothers and babies. This programme will be delivered by obstetricians and midwives and women under specialised care will give birth in a Specialised Birthing Centre.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar says women will be offered three choices in how they give birth, with the new strategy “giving more opportunities for home births, opportunities to have labour occur in an Alongside Birth Centre or a Specialised Centre.”

Former Master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, Sam Coulter Smith told's Breakfast the years since a KPMG report on services in Dublin was published in 2008 have been difficult:

"They (KPMG) highlighted the fact that we didn't have enough staff, that the infrastructure wasn't appropriate, and the resources were not good enough.

“And since 2008 we are 25-30% busier than we were then, and we still have the same issues, and we find it difficult to get staff."

"We have been through a perfect storm over the past couple of years."