Senators from all sides are being urged to support a Fianna Fáil motion in the Seanad this week calling for the protection of obstetrician-led maternity services at regional hospitals.

The motion condemns plans contained in a confidential HSE internal report to dismantle obstetrician-led maternity services in the West and North West region. The confidential report, seen by Fianna Fáil last week, could result in the closure or downgrading of the maternity units at up to 4 regional hospitals in the Northwest:

Fianna Fáil’s Seanad Spokesperson on Health Senator Marc Mac Sharry said, “There are very clear signs that the Government and the HSE are strongly considering a major downgrade of maternity services at Portiuncula Hospital, Mayo General, Sligo General and Letterkenny General Hospital. This is a dangerous cost-cutting exercise that I believe fails to put the patient first and that must be stopped without further delay.

“Ireland has the lowest number of obstetricians per patients in the OECD. We simply cannot afford to further downgrade this crucial frontline service. The loss of obstetrician-led maternity services at any of these hospitals would be a major step back for this country. It would push frontline maternity services further away from patients, forcing many women to travel for hours just to see a consultant. It would create particularly dangerous gaps in access to immediate specialised care in the case of emergency situations.

“I am calling on all Senators to put party politics aside and support this motion this week. The Fine Gael and Labour Senators in the West and North West in particular need to stand up for their local hospitals and send a strong message that this vital service must be protected in full at a local level.

“Following a number of recent tragedies, we cannot leave any doubt about the importance of obstetrician led maternity services in all parts of the country. My fear is that the plans for downgrading services in the West and North West are just the tip of the iceberg. Maternity services in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Dublin are also under threat.

“We need to invest in ensuring access to safe, quality maternity care for all expectant mothers regardless of where they live. By supporting this motion in the Seanad this week, Senators will be sending out a strong message that cuts to our maternity services are off the cards.”