Dáil debates

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Topical Issue Debate

Maternity Services

6:55 pm

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

On the matters raised by Deputy Billy Kelleher, I inform him of changes that have been made since 2010 when the case occurred. The national early warning score has been introduced to detect deteriorating cases; in the hospital in Sligo there is now a new structured hand-over meeting between medical staff when they move from one shift to another and there is an enhanced and updated admission and discharge policy for ICU. With these changes, there are continuing developments in risk management, structures and processes.

While I believe we need more obstetricians - 120 is not enough - according to the OECD's report, Health at a Glance 2013, we have more obstetricians and gynaecologists per head than in Canada and New Zealand. The report also indicates that the ratio of Irish midwives stands above the OECD average and above that in France, Germany and the Netherlands. People can be quite selective when they make comparisons. They pick the countries with which they want to compare. I am picking countries with which I want to compare.

As somebody who has worked in eight hospitals, including a maternity hospital, I believe it is important to point out that being short staffed should never be an excuse for medical negligence or misadventure. It takes 30 seconds for a laboratory scientist to ring a ward with a blood result about which there is concern. It takes about one minute to check a blood result. If one misdiagnoses an acute abdomen case, it has nothing to do with time or resources, but is a mistake. We should not allow people to claim that being short staffed is an excuse for medical misadventure or negligence. It should never be accepted as an excuse. If we accept that excuse, it will always be the excuse. Today I heard the suggestion that a patient's mouth was taped with surgical tape because a hospital was short staffed. That is not good enough.

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