Maternity 12-hour plan to be ‘optional’

THE Health Service Executive (HSE) has moved to assure women that it does not intend to compulsorily force new mothers out of maternity hospitals 12 hours after giving birth.

Its statement follows comments by HSE chief executive Brendan Drumm at his breakfast meeting with TDs, and reported by Labour Party deputy leader Joan Burton, where he said he wanted to move towards a model where mothers left hospital 12 hours after delivery.

In a statement yesterday a HSE spokesman said an Early Transfer Home Programme (ETHP) had been successful in Holles Street and they were “raising the possibility” of having the optional scheme extended to other maternity hospitals.

Under the ETHP, mothers who have a normal delivery can leave hospital 12 hours after delivery and avail of community midwifery care at home for a further five days.

During pregnancy, they attend a midwife clinic rather than a consultant’s hospital clinic. Their antenatal dealings with obstetricians are limited, unless they experience problems.

Trinity College lecturer in midwifery Deirdre Daly yesterday welcomed the move towards community midwifery services, saying most pregnant women in this country had little choice in how they are treated.

“This service is in place in the Dublin hospitals and in other parts of the country on a limited basis. I believe, however, that it should be available to all women as it has superior satisfaction ratings and has proven to be successful in the North and Britain where it has been in place for years.

“There is a huge need for increasing the number of community midwifes as many women are going home to very little support.

“It would also mean that the women who remain in hospitals after Caesarean sections or because they are not well get an even better standard of care as there would be less pressure on hospital services,” she said.

Tralee General Hospital obstetrician Dr Mary McCaffrey would welcome early discharge for women who “wanted it”, but said others want more breast-feeding support in hospital or else have more children at home and “need hospital rest”.

But Joan Burton warned that “early discharge should be a woman’s choice and not forced upon them”.

Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James O’Reilly said the ETHP could only be expanded with a corresponding huge increase in community nursing and midwifery supports.

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