Three maternal deaths were recorded by Cork University Maternity Hospital this year.
Two of the women died in hospital and one woman died at home, subsequent to giving birth.
The figure is equal to the total number of maternal deaths recorded between the three Dublin maternity units each year from 2002-2009. However, the Dublin units — Holles St, the Rotunda, and the Coombe — recorded six maternal deaths between them last year, the worst year for maternal deaths in Dublin hospitals in a decade.
The three deaths recorded by CUMH in 2012 are against a backdrop of an estimated 8,500 deliveries at the hospital by the end of the year.
CUMH clinical director Richard Greene said that while they would obviously “prefer not to have any deaths”, the 2012 figure ran against the trend for the previous five years, when no maternal deaths were recorded at the hospital.
“One lady did die last year, but that occurred in the general hospital after she was transferred into the ICU,” said Prof Greene.
Of the three deaths that occurred this year, one woman died in early pregnancy, another late in pregnancy, and a third post-natally, said Prof Greene.
He said when the figure for 2012 was “averaged out” over the last five years, the maternal mortality rate for CUMH was six deaths per 100,000 births, which is below the figure of 8.5 per 100,000 recorded by Maternal Death Enquiry Ireland, a stand-alone office based at CUMH that carries out confidential enquiries into maternal deaths.
Of the three women who died this year, two were “technically indirect”, said Prof Greene. Indirect maternal deaths are defined as “where death is the result of a pre-existing disease or a disease that develops during pregnancy”. A “direct” maternal death is the result of obstetric complications.
The third death, which occurred in November, is currently with the coroner’s office and Prof Greene said that they had received “no feedback” as yet.
The HSE said all three deaths were reported to the coroner, in accordance with protocol.
In a statement, the HSE said the coroner “has reviewed the autopsy reports in two of the cases and did not request an inquest”. However, the third is currently with the coroner “for consideration”, the HSE said.
“Of course we would prefer that no mother died,” Prof Greene said, “but the reality is hospitals go through runs like this.”
Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital recorded three maternal deaths last year. There were 9,319 babies delivered at the Rotunda in 2011.
Maternal death is extremely rare in Ireland, although the MDE system has identified under-reporting in CSO figures. The Central Statistics Office only recorded one maternal death nationally in 2010, when four were recorded in the Dublin maternity hospitals alone.
MDE uses wider criteria for defining maternal death than that used by the CSO. MDE Ireland found that, in the years 2009 to 2011 inclusive, 25 mothers who attended maternity hospitals with their pregnancies died.
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