Thursday, 1 December 2016
Will the Minister provide us with a report on the maternity services at University Hospital Galway following the loss of two key members of staff in recent months? The context of the question is these two key members of staff were recruited after the death of Ms Savita Halappanavar. I look forward to the Minister's comments.
I thank Deputy Rabbitte for this important question.
Regarding the two vacancies in the University Hospital Galway maternity service, the Saolta University Healthcare Group has advised that these vacancies have arisen due to the resignation of the director of midwifery in the autumn, and the untimely passing of the assistant director of midwifery earlier this year.
I am advised by the Saolta group that interviews have been scheduled for the assistant director of midwifery position, while the director of midwifery role is currently being advertised. I agree with the Deputy's sentiments that we would like to see these posts filled as quickly as possible. The point Deputy Rabbitte makes is important in terms of ensuring that we continue to learn from the past and keep in place the resources that are there. Pending the filling of these posts, the Saolta group director of nursing and midwifery has assumed responsibility for maternity services at the hospital. Furthermore, in line with the recommendations issued in respect of maternity services at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, a director of midwifery is being appointed for all maternity sites within the Saolta group. The group has advised that all applicable recommendations arising out of the recent review of maternity services in Galway have either been fully implemented or are being implemented on an ongoing basis.
The publication of Ireland’s first national maternity strategy earlier this year demonstrates a new and enhanced focus on maternity care at both policy and service delivery level. It provides a roadmap for how we can improve maternity and neonatal care in the years ahead in order to promote and assure safe, standardised and high quality care. I am confident that this new strategy is a landmark moment for maternity services and a much-needed one, and it will provide support and impetus to the development of maternity services across the country, including in Galway University Hospital.
I have described 2016 as a landmark year for maternity services. The reason I did that is that we now have the first ever national maternity strategy. It is the year in which we will see the new HIQA standards for national maternity services, which I have just signed off and which will be launched this month. It is also the year in which we have seen the publication of bereavement standards for when something sadly goes wrong in pregnancy, with input from women themselves and from midwives, and it is the year, thankfully, in which we will see the National Maternity Hospital finally move to a state-of-the-art site at St. Vincent's.
I thank the Minister for his response. It is important to acknowledge the untimely passing of the assistant director. In relation to the other lady who resigned her post, that was unfortunate because there was a schedule of works for completion.
I wonder if the Minister has received feedback. In relation to the Saolta report, he said that a certain number of the recommendations have been actioned. Are many still outstanding from the time of Ms Savita Halappanavar's passing? Are they all being actioned?
The Minister spoke of many milestones that have been hit this year. Will the report on Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe be completed soon also?
In relation to Portiuncula, I will revert to the Deputy. I intend to visit that hospital, as well as Galway University Hospital, this month. I hope the Deputy can join me then and we can explore these issues further.
I take the Deputy's point on the importance of these appointments. It is really important that the posts are filled as quickly as possible and I am satisfied that the Saolta group is going about doing that. As I said, the interviews are under way for one and the post of director of midwifery is now advertised.
I have been assured by the Saolta group that all of the local recommendations arising from the HSE patient safety review and all of the coroner's applicable local recommendations have either been implemented or are subject to an implementation plan where ongoing implementation is occurring. I will ask the HSE and the Saolta group to revert to the Deputy with more specific information on each of those actions.
The department of obstetrics and gynaecology at University Hospital Galway serves the population of Galway city and county, but also the surrounding areas of Roscommon, north Clare and south Mayo. It provides a range of general and specialist gynaecology and maternity services, including feto-maternal medicine for high risk pregnancies, while also catering for low-risk pregnant women. It provides a wide range of services, including fertility outpatient services. The unit has a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit following a major refurbishment project in 2011. The department is also a partner with the CervicalCheck programme and runs a busy colposcopy service.
I look forward to visiting it and having a chance, at first hand, to see these services and to be updated that all of these recommendations are well under way, as I have been assured they are. I will ask the HSE to revert to the Deputy with specific information on the status of each of those recommendations.
I thank the Minister for his kind invitation to join him in Portiuncula and Galway hospitals, which he intends to visit in the next month. His visits will be welcome.
In addition to everything the Minister said, it is also important to acknowledge the hard work the nurses are doing. They are delivering a fantastic service and it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge it.
Deputy Rabbitte's point is really important. I have visited many of our maternity hospitals and maternity units over the past six months where so many staff are working extraordinarily hard. While, sadly, we have had tragedies in our maternity services and we must constantly strive to do better, and I have outlined what we will do better, we must also acknowledge the dedication particularly of the midwives. I was so impressed to see the amount of their free time midwives gave, perhaps after working night duties, in coming to meetings to help write the bereavement standards for when something goes wrong during a pregnancy. I fully endorse the Deputy's comments and look forward to meeting those staff directly in Galway this month.