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Pressure on staff and infrastructure in maternity services at Irish hospitals, according to HIQA reports

The Health Information and Quality Authority identified a number of areas for improvement to ensure that maternity services remain safe.

Image: Shutterstock/igorstevanovic

STAFFING SHORTAGES AND substandard infrastructure is threatening the viability of maternity services into the future, a new report from HIQA has found. 

The Health Information and Quality Authority identified a number of areas for improvement to ensure that maternity services remain safe and effective into the future. 

While the health watchdog highlighted an overall level of professionalism, teamwork and commitment displayed by staff, it also raised concerns for the impact on staff of a highly pressurised and demanding environment. 

The National Maternity Strategy was established in 2016 but little progress has been made at government level to progress the measures outlined within it. 

HIQA’s Director of Regulation, Mary Dunnion said: “Overall, our findings provide assurance that improvements have been made in maternity services since HIQA’s investigation into maternal care in Portlaoise Hospital.”

“However, we found a lack of clarity and national leadership within the HSE regarding the responsibility for implementing the National Maternity Strategy.

“This Strategy provides a framework for a new and better maternity service that improves choice for women, and ensures that smaller maternity units, in particular, are better supported to provide sustainably high-quality and safe care.

“It was of concern to HIQA that the HSE had made only limited progress in advancing this Strategy since it was approved by Government in 2016, and a more comprehensive, time-bound and costed implementation plan is required.”

Some 19 reports into maternity services in hospitals across the country were published today. 

HIQA has made eight recommendations to the HSE to improve the quality and safety of maternity services into the future, including the development of a comprehensive plan to fully implement both the National Standards for Safer Better Maternity Services and the National Maternity Strategy.

Sean Egan, HIQA’s head of healthcare, said: “Our inspections showed that services around the country were reliant on front-line medical staff working onerous rosters – some on call every three nights — and midwifery staff working overtime to address staffing deficits and maintain service levels.

“In addition, the poor infrastructure and physical environment across maternity services significantly impacts on a woman’s comfort, dignity and privacy, and increases the potential risk of cross infection for women and babies.” 

“Addressing the ageing infrastructure across many maternity services will require significant funding,” he added. 

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