MIDWIVES are working at an unsustainable rate to provide care for patients, a new report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has found.
The report found that while key patient outcomes were good and staff were “excellent”, the maternity system was understaffed and “very reliant” on “midwifery staff working overtime to maintain service levels”.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said that this is further evidence of the chronic understaffing in Ireland’s 19 maternity units and that midwives’ dedication was being used to “paper over cracks” in the service.
The union called for the long-delayed implementation of the National Maternity Strategy, which would increase midwife-led care and bring staffing levels up to the scientifically safe level of no more than 29.5 births per midwife.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said midwives’ ‘commitment is being abused’.
In relation to Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH), the HIQA report found that a mandatory transfer and acceptance policy from hospitals in the South/South West Hospital Group to CUMH was beneficial. The strategy ensures women and their babies who may be in need of specialist treatment can be transferred to CUMH.
HIQA recommended that efforts to replicate this approach across other hospital groups be advanced in the short-term as a key safety measure, while maternity networks continue to be developed. CUMH was also found to be compliant with all 21 standards set out in HIQA’s inspection.
However, the health watchdog did highlight delays in delegating accountability and governance for maternity services in the SSWHG to the clinical director, as was proposed in 2017.
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.