New midwives announced for St Luke’s Hospital
By Naoise Coogan
St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny is to be allocated 10 new midwives to address the midwife shortage, which is to arise when some 10 midwives retire at the end of the month.
The news came mid-week, when there were concerns expressed that an already chronically low midwife number was being further exacerbated as seven experienced midwives plan to retire by March 1.
Local obstetricians, expectant mothers and hospital staff expressed their concerns for the gaps in staffing once the retirements had occurred.
However, on Tuesday afternoon Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, TD announced the decision of the HSE to appoint extra nursing midwives at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny.
“The HSE has approved the recruitment of 10 new nursing midwives at the Kilkenny hospital with immediate effect,” said Minister Hogan.
“These appointments will replace the seven who are retiring as well as providing three extra posts.”
Consultant obstetrician at St Luke’s Ray O’Sullivan said that he was delighted to hear that the positions had been approved and added that he hoped that their appointments would be imminent.
“It is great news to hear that the midwife positions have been approved but more importantly, I hope that the process of appointing them will be a rapid one. They will need to be interviewed, and offered the positions and then vetted etc so there is a long process to hiring midwives, so I hope that the process can be speeded up and that we are not left with a lengthy hiatus between when the seven retire and the new staff start,” he said.
Currently there is one midwife to 80 births at St Luke’s Hospital which Mr O’Sullivan has described as a ‘critical level of staffing’ as the Irish Midwives and Nurses Organisation recommends just 30 births to every midwife.
“St Luke’s already has a chronic shortage of midwives and so any new appointments are most welcome. They complain in other hospitals about their ratios of midwives to births but we are in fact worse off in Carlow Kilkenny than most other hospitals but because we have a very functioning group of people working for us at St Luke’s we are sometimes overlooked, as we cope. However, we are being punished for coping too well and this is the problem,” explained Mr O’Sullivan.
St Luke’s records almost 2,000 baby deliveries a year which is an average of five babies a day.
Last week there was controversy over the lack of staff on duty to provide a cup of tea and toast to a new mother who had just given birth.
However, staffing levels at the hospital and bed closures have resulted in a decreased service being available in all areas of the hospital.
“St Luke’s has had one of the largest percentage of bed closures than any other hospital in the country,” said Mr O’Sullivan. We simply don’t have the staff to open beds and therefore there are vacant wards and beds in one part of the hospital and people on trolleys and on waiting lists in another. It isn’t right but we have to try and make the best of the situation. We are currently about €5 million over our budget but our budget has suffered a huge loss in cutbacks. We’ve had a budget of over €60 million in the past but now we have a budget of around €46 million,” he pointed out. “These are difficult circumstances to be working in but we have to make the most of it.”