Thursday, 12 May 2022
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Aisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
This morning, I attended a briefing at and tour of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, with the Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, Professor Shane Higgins, the master of the hospital, Ms Mary Brosnan, the director of midwifery, the senior clinical team, and other Members of the Oireachtas. The hospital building dates from the 1930s. There are two wards, one with 15 rooms. Women going into labour are separated by a curtain and there is one toilet. We walked around the hospital and noted that the corridors are too narrow to take beds. Beds cannot be fitted into the lifts.
Portiuncula University Hospital, Ballinasloe, dates to the 1940s. We fought so hard to get a 50-bed unit across the line two years ago. It took ten to 15 years to do so. It has still not been built. It is at stage 2, thank God, and will be built, but we needed that hospital 20 years ago. The women of Ireland needed a new national maternity hospital 20 years ago. It is not good enough to say that the quality of life entailed is acceptable for women or that we have to pause. There are valid concerns among women.
We need to have very clear guidelines on the 299-year lease and the fact that the new hospital will provide services. There are letters, signed by more than 400 clinicians from around the country and also England, about the services that will be provided at our new national maternity hospital, which involves a multimillion euro investment. The conditions in which women are currently having their babies are incredible. One member of the senior team I met this morning said women who must deal with certain medical procedures must also deal with the crisis of losing a baby. Bereaved women, who have just experienced one of the biggest losses in their lives, must go in and out the same door as those going in to have their babies.
We have to have a duty of care to women. We have to have equality of care, and this State must deliver that. It should have delivered it years ago. The State needs to deliver it now. It is not enough to say we can wait longer. We need to have the support of the Government to move the project forward, and we need to deliver the services for women. I want to ensure that our Government is taking all the steps necessary to provide reassurance to people who have valid concerns. We know from our clinical experts and the legal team who spoke to us this morning and previously that there are concerns to be met. Seanad Éireann needs to say it is delivering services for women in Ireland - services we can stand over. Right now, we cannot stand over them.