Dáil debates

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Topical Issue Debate

Maternity Services

6:45 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Minister, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport; Dublin West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputies for raising this important issue and allowing me to address the House on the matter.

I offer my deepest condolences to Mr. Michael Kivlehan, his son, Dior, and their families on the sad and tragic loss of Dhara Kivlehan. I understand the HSE has offered sincere condolences and apologised to both families for the shortcomings in the management and care of Mrs. Kivlehan at Sligo Regional Hospital.

While cases of medical misadventure do occur in the health service, it is very important to reassure women and their families that maternal and perinatal health statistics indicate that Ireland continues to be a very safe country in which to give birth. Our safety record and maternal mortality rates compare favourably with those of other developed countries. It is important that we reassure people of these facts.

The tragic death of Mrs. Kivlehan took place in 2010. This was before the investigation by HIQA into a maternal death in University Hospital Galway and prior to the CMO's report on perinatal deaths at the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise. The actions required to address the recommendations of both reports are being undertaken across health services to improve patient safety and provide a more patient centred model of care.

A patient safety culture is now embedded in the HSE's service plan through specific measures, including performance indicators for health care associated infections, medication safety and implementation of early warning scores, which did not obtain at the time. My officials meet the HSE each month on the service plan and patient safety is a standing item on the agenda. The HSE has advised me that improvements in patient safety continue within maternity services at Sligo Regional Hospital. The HSE is also focused on delivering improvements in the way critical care is organised and delivered within the hospital group structures to ensure patients receive the same high quality of care no matter where they are treated.

Furthermore, as the Deputies will be aware, we are working on the development of a new maternity strategy for Ireland. Developing the strategy will provide us with an opportunity to take stock of current services and identify how we can improve the quality and safety of care provided for pregnant women and their babies. This will include both hospital and home care and obstetric-led and maternity led units. The strategy will ensure services comply with best available national and international standards. We want to make sure women are provided with the right care, in the right setting, by the right person, at the right time.

While maternal deaths in Ireland are rare, I know that is of no consolation to those families who have suffered such a loss, but I can assure them that we are learning from mistakes of the past, building on that knowledge in the present and endeavouring to ensure they are not repeated in the future.

Deputy Kelleher Billy asked about the availability of intensive care beds. I asked for a report on this issue this morning. I also checked how many intensive care unit beds were available this morning as a random test and at least two were available. However, it may be the case that availability presents a difficulty from time to time.

Deputy Clare Daly raised a separate matter, relating to Ms Philomena Canning. I understand this case has been in and out of the courts for some time. As I have not been fully briefed on the case, I do not want to comment on it, as I do not know all of the details of it. However, I am aware that the HSE supports and provides cover for a number of community midwives and that no effort is being made to reduce or remove cover for all community midwives. I suggest that if the HSE has decided to withdraw cover in the case of this individual midwife, there may be a reason for it.

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