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Dr Jennifer Donnelly, the Clinical Director of the Rotunda Hospital.
Recruitment Embargo

Rotunda clinical director welcomes new building but says more nurses and midwives needed

Dr Donnelly said that the HSE recruitment freeze will only make it more difficult to have adequate number of midwives.

THE CLINICAL DIRECTOR of the Rotunda hospital has welcomed the Government’s plans to open a new maternity outpatient ward for the hospital in part of the iconic Clery’s store building, but said that staffing issues are causing real difficulties at present. 

The Government is investing roughly €40 million in the new unit, which utilises modern technology to deliver services for maternity and paediatric outpatients, colposcopy services, and perinatal mental health and social work services. 

The tender for the outfitting of the building was released today. When it opens, the site which has been procured by the HSE for the Rotunda will provide outpatient services to over 100,000 patients every year. 

Dr Jennifer Donnelly, a consultant in obstetrics and maternal fetal medicine and clinical director at the Rotunda, said that the expected opening of the new building in late 2024-early 2025 will mark a “much needed” and significant “step forward for women’s healthcare services in Ireland”. 

She added, however, that staffing difficulties are impacting maternity services in the Rotunda and beyond. 

Speaking at an event to mark the announcement of the news plans today, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that the new facilities will be “state of the art”. 

WhatsApp Image 2023-11-17 at 14.50.29 (1) Minister Stephen Donnelly thanked the staff at the Rotunda for their 'incredible work'.

“We know HIQA’s report from 2020 showed the outpatient facilities [at the Rotunda Hospital] weren’t fit for purpose, despite the world class care being offered,” Donnelly said, adding that the new facility will change the experience of both staff and their patients. 

The minister said that when he took office he made the “audacious” promise of starting a “revolution” in women’s healthcare, but that the new building off North Earl Street is a “physical manifestation” of the Government’s commitment.

Speaking to The Journal, Dr Donnelly said that the new buildings shows women’s healthcare is being “taken seriously”, but that investment is also needed in expanding staff numbers.

She further said that the outpatient facilities at the Rotunda are outdated, and create challenges for staff and patients. 

“At the moment, we do a huge volume of work in a very small space. When we brought staff here the first thing they were pleased with was the amount of space, it will make a huge difference. It will be easier to get buggies in and out. We will have better equipment, and soundproofing in consultation rooms,” she explained. 

“That there is investment now in women’s health services now is really important, and it hasn’t always been the case,” she added.

Dr Donnelly said that at present, women attending the Rotunda to avail of pregnancy loss services have to share a waiting room with pregnant women attending antenatal services. 

“You can imagine, for women coming into the service who are dealing with pregnancy loss, they are coming into a space where there are pregnant women. That can be difficult, and so, we are hoping to move that into the gynae area,” she explained. 

“As it is, a lot of our rooms are just divided by doors, and so you can sometimes overhear consultants, not loudly, but you are aware the conversation is going on, so it’s really important for this new building to ensure privacy and dignity. 

Dr Donnelly said that the Rotunda and other maternity hospitals are dealing with a high level of midwifery vacancies and finding it at times difficult to retain new staff – a situation she does not envision improving under the HSE’s current recruitment ban. 

“At the moment there is a HSE embargo on new staff, I would question the rationale behind that. There won’t be an increase in staff, but I think there needs to be. 

“[The minister] speaks about investment in women’s health services, which I think is fantastic. Having buildings is amazing, but we need investment in staff, and expansion in numbers – particularly in midwifery. Their hard work also needs to be appreciated, and that should be reflected in their pay,” Dr Donnelly said. 

“It is very hard to get midwives. Even if we did have expanded numbers, it’s a stressful job as well as a rewarding job, but i think with Dublin being such an expensive place to live, that is having an impact on recruitment and retention,” she added. 

Dr Donnelly said that she hopes having a new modern building will help to attract midwives to work in the service. 

“We may need to see access to supported housing for key workers, in our long term planning. 

She said that wages also impact the services ability to recruit staff. 

“It is good that the Government is taking women’s health seriously. I am a woman in this job, but if you look at midwives and nursing staff, these are majority female professions, and maybe they have been systemically underpaid because of the way they are perceived in relation to gender and caring. 

“There has been an attitude of ‘should you not just want to care?’ Maybe if it was a male focused job they may be valued more monetarily. 

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