Fianna Fáil’s Seanad spokesperson on Health Marc Mac Sharry says a number of questions remain following a decision by the HSE West/North West Hospitals Group to shelve a review into the region’s maternity services.
Senator Mac Sharry exposed the confidential report which included proposals to downgrade and close maternity services at a number of hospitals. CEO of the West/North West Hospitals Group Bill Maher has now confirmed that the review has been suspended and will be incorporated into a national examination of maternity services.
Senator Mac Sharry commented, “I am deeply concerned by the HSE’s lack of transparency with regard to the issue of maternity services in the West/North West region. There was no public consultation or engagement with patients before this report was prepared. In fact, it only admitted the review was being carried out after Fianna Fáil highlighted its existence. The contents made for frightening reading, documenting the possible downgrading and even closure of maternity services in a number of hospitals across the region.
“Today’s announcement of a national approach to maternity services is welcome, but there needs to be a public consultation period with the most important stakeholder in the process, the patient. There is an obvious need to upgrade maternity and neonatal services right across the country so that the Irish system meets international best practice standards and hopefully this national review will set out a framework of how best to achieve this in a way that offers equality of access to all women.
“Questions still remain about the unilateral action taken by the West North West Hospital Group to review these services. Who commissioned the report? Did the board know? What were the terms of reference? Who prepared and approved them? Did the CEO of the HSE, The Minister or the CEO of the West/North West Hospital group help prescribe the terms of reference? If not who is responsible? To what extent will this failed and flawed report inform the national position now? These are all central issues that need to be addressed if this national review is to have any credibility.
“There is no doubt that resources are key if maternity services are to be overhauled and improved and I would urge the Health Minister to ensure that funding is ring fenced to provide state of the art obstetrician led care for pregnant women and babies regardless of where they live”.
“Having exposed this secret and non-inclusive approach that the West/North West Hospital Group was taking in considering options which sought to downgrade and in some instances close obstetrician led maternity services I welcome the national approach which will now be taken. There are serious challenges in terms of staffing maternity services into the future. This will require planning and resources. It is essential however that the Government does not seek to take the easy option which was envisaged in the flawed and discriminatory vision set out in the West/North West Hospital Group report which Fianna Fáil exposed in May.
Minister Reilly must clearly outline the terms of reference which informed the report being abandoned and those which undermine the national review. The women of Ireland are entitled to know if government is secretly planning to dismantle our obstetrician led maternity network. Minister Reilly needs to come clean and clearly outline what is going on”.