Tuesday, 30 September 2014
Topical Issue Debate
This issue arises on the back of the tragic and unnecessary death of Dhara Kivlehan which really saddened people throughout the country. She was a young woman in her prime and had just given birth to her first baby. The real tragedy is that this was not an isolated incident. Unfortunately, Dhara was the latest in a long list of others, including Savita Halappanavar, Nora Hyland, Bimbo Onanuga and Tanya McCabe. There have been inquests in Sligo and investigations in Portlaoise, in the middle of which are women hoping their giving birth to their children will be a joyous occasion.
All of the occurrences in question happened under the watch of the HSE. There is a systemic crisis in maternity care, for two reasons. First, the cutbacks have meant that not a single maternity hospital is operating to safe ratios. Critically, however, our policies are wrong. We have an outdated antenatal policy that has not been changed for years. We should be seeking to develop a country-wide strategy involving midwifery-led units; instead, the HSE is actively pursuing midwives. I find it sickening that on the same day that the verdict of death by medical misadventure was given against Sligo hospital, where a midwife said she could not tell a patient had jaundice because she was Indian, an independent midwife with 31 years of stalwart experience, Ms Philomena Canning, had her State indemnity insurance withdrawn consequent to a decision handed down in the courts. All afternoon I have been receiving e-mails from people who worked with Ms Canning and women for whom she acted or has been acting as midwife. Her crime was not killing somebody or doing something which led to somebody's death; rather, it was that, while observing all procedures and protocols, she transferred a woman to hospital after a home birth when that woman felt dizzy. That woman was discharged ten hours later and she and her baby were fine. Owing to the actions of the HSE, there are ten women – many of whom are about to give birth imminently – who do not have a midwife. This is really serious, particularly when one notes the list of fatalities in hospitals under the direction of the HSE. Nobody was suspended, let alone fired. Ms Canning has devoted her life to women and proper birthing in which women have a choice. The policy is completely wrong and the Minister must consider a decent and proper system of maternity care.