Post natal care not up to standard, expert claims

Mother-of-three Marie Downey who died at Cork University Maternity Hospital this week

Post-natal care for mothers in the country's maternity hospitals is not up to standard because of staff shortages, a maternity care expert has claimed.

Staffing concerns have been raised in the wake of the death of mother-of-three Marie Downey and her four-day-son, Darragh at Cork University Maternity Hospital this week.

It was reported today that three nurses were caring for 31 patients on Ms Downey's ward when she was found lying over her son on the floor of her single room on Monday. Her baby died the following day.

Ms Downey was originally from Ballyagran, Co Limerick, but lived in Knockanevin, Kildorrery, Co Cork.

Health Minister, Simon Harris, said an independent review into what happened would take place in addition to the hospital's investigation.

Krysia Lynch, maternity care expert and chair of AIMS Ireland, said staffing issues in maternity care had been an issue for a long time.

AIMS Ireland is an organisation formed in 2007 by women following their experience in the Irish maternity system.

Ms Lynch said post-natal care always emerged as the most “problematic” in surveys conducted by AIMS.

“Women would report that most of the focus of care is on their baby and making sure that their baby is ok. There is very little focus on them – how they are feeling and how things are working out for them,” she said.

And second and third-time mothers would say that whatever about the care if you had a normal delivery you are less likely to receive the same level of attention as a first-time mum.

Post-natal care was “at the bottom of the ladder” because most of the available resources went into ante-natal care and the delivery suite.

The need for more midwives was identified in the National Maternity Strategy 2016-2026.

"More midwives have been employed but the gap continues to be greater than what it should be," said Ms Lynch.

She also said the breastfeeding reference in Ms Downey's case was unusual because it did not contribute to her situation.

“Mothers have to get and out of bed all the time to look after their babies,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said it could not comment on individual patient cases.

Meanwhile, health services are expected to be hit by further work stoppages next month as over 7,000 SIPTU members employed as support staff in major hospitals are to ballot for strike action.

The move follows a decision by the union's support sector committee to take action in response to an ongoing dispute about pay awards granted under agreed job evaluation processes.

Around 500 ambulance personnel who are members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association will hold two further strike days on Tuesday, April 2 and Wednesday, April 10 in their continuing campaign for their right to join and be represented by the PNA.

An INMO spokesperson said the Labour Court was expected to issue its recommendation on a draft contract for nurses and midwives next week.

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