Government urged to act on disturbing reports from Kilkenny maternity unit
By COLIN BARTLEY
THE GOVERNMENT is playing with the health and safety of women in Kilkenny and must address serious issues emerging from the maternity ward of St Luke’s Hospital immediately, a local TD has said.
Kilkenny TD Kathleen Funchion spoke out in response to revelations that two pregnant women have died in the unit since 2017, while caesarean births hit nearly 60% during some months over the same period.
The Sinn Fein TD has called for the immediate implementation of the recommendations in a leaked Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) report into conditions at the Kilkenny maternity ward.
The report recommends the urgent appointment of extra staff. The Irish East Hospital Group (IEHG) confirmed to KilkennyNow.ie this week that a new obstetrics and gynaecology consultant is being sought to fill the position.
Ms Funchion has raised serious concerns about the maternity ward to the government for over two years, starting when hospital management proposed a 15% cut to hospital funding and the maternity ward becoming an overflow facility for other hospital departments.
Ms Funchion (pictured below) said: “It was a ludicrous proposal which staff were highly concerned about at the time. It showed no regard for mothers of newborn babies or pregnant women and it would have increased the risks of cross-contamination of patients and high-risk clientele.”
A spokesperson for HIQA told KilkennyNow.ie: “The report of the inspectors visit to St Luke’s General Hospital, Kilkenny is not due to be released for some months. We are not in a position to comment at this time.”
A spokesperson for the IEHG admitted issues have emerged while performing a review of service in St Luke’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
“We have identified several challenges in the unit which we are committed to addressing as promptly as possible, ” the spokesperson told KilkennyNow.ie.
“Extensive consultation and reviews have been undertaken with staff and patients in the service. Immediate actions have been taken to implement a robust structure to provide safety assurance.
“There is a plan for the expansion of consultant staff and a fifth Obstetrician post has been approved and the recruitment process is in progress.
“We have been working with staff in recent months to devise a programme to address these various issues, to improve all aspects of the operation of the unit and to turn it over time into the centre of excellence that Kilkenny should have,” the spokesperson added.
Deputy Funchion called on the Government to take immediate action and not wait for the publication of the HIQA report.
“I urge the Minister for Health to act on the recommendations immediately for the safety of all women attending St Luke’s Maternity unit, ” she said.