Hospital consultants have expressed concerns over long-term commitment to funding women’s health services in Donegal and other western counties
Irish Hospital Consultants Association president, Dr Donal O’Hanlon, said the findings of HIQA’s monitoring report on maternity services today, (Wednesday), outlined a familiar story with our health services – a promising launch of a national health strategy, but a lack of follow through.
“It is very concerning and disappointing that four years into the lifetime of the National Maternity Strategy, the commitment to fund and implement its recommendations is being delayed. This is failing many, many women.
“Currently there are 31,719 women waiting for gynaecological services across our national public hospitals and almost a fifth of these women are waiting for 12 months or more.
“The consultant recruitment and retention crisis is a major factor and despite having the third highest birth rate in the EU, Ireland has less than half the EU average number of specialists in obstetrics and gynaecology. So far, only approximately 20 of the 100 additional consultants recommended in the national maternity strategy have been hired.
“The lack of funding for the national maternity strategy is affecting the one in five women who have mental health problems in pregnancy or after childbirth. Approximately 2,240 of these are likely to suffer from more serious mental illness and would benefit from advice from or referral to a specialist perinatal mental health service.
“Such facilities were due to be established in maternity network hubs to treat women directly and provide expert advice to other maternity units in the country. It is extremely disappointing that the €370,000 required for the operation of the Galway University Hospital Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service has been diverted," he said.
He warned what this meant for Donegal.
“This means that women in the Saolta Hospital Group western counties (Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo) who need this support are being deprived of services which are available throughout the rest of the country.
“It is vital that all specialist perinatal mental health services are funded adequately because of the very negative consequences of perinatal mental health disorders for the mother, the baby, their relationship and that with the partner and other children.
“We need a clear and consistent commitment from Government that it will adequately fund and resource the implementation of the National Maternity Strategy across the country. The women of Ireland have been let down by our health services in the past and have been made many promises in recent years, which the Government and health service management must now honour,” he said.
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