Births increase at the Portlaoise hospital maternity unit reveals HSE data

Conor Ganly

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Conor Ganly

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news@leinsterexpress.ie

portlaoise babies maternity

Portlaoise hospital.

The birth rate at Portlaoise hospital, which is now run by the Coombe in Dublin, is on the increase according to the latest official HSE figures.

The data also reveals that more women are having babies in Laois than at hospitals in Sligo, Kerry and Tipperary.

The HSE publishes quarterly Management Data Report covering activity in all hospitals. Figures to September this year show that there were 1,156 births at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise.

This is nearly 5% above the of the 1,104 birth target set by the HSE for the maternity unit for the first first three quarters. Portlaoise is one of just four hospitals in the country where deliveries are ahead of what was anticipated at the start of 2017. 

Cavan is 2.2% ahead of target while the Rotunda in Dublin and Limerick showed marginally positive differences.

While, the maternity unit is among a number hospitals with a smaller caseloads, it is not the smallest.

There were 1,485 births in Portlaoise in 2016. In the same year there 1,034 births at the South Tipperary General in Clonmel while there were 1,360 births at Sligo University Hospital. Portlaoise was also ahead of University Hospital Kerry which had 1,413 births. All of these hospitals are behind the targeted activity for 2017.

The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group wants to remove the maternity unit from Portlaoise as part of a reconfiguration which would see A&E, ICU, paediatrics and most surgery relocated.

Births would initially be transferred to the Coombe Women and Infants hospital where there were 8,303 births in 2016. The DMHG says this will have a 'modest' impact on the Coombe which now runs Portlaoise hospital's maternity unit.

The DMHG also wants to examine the prospect of building a big new unit in Tullamore to subsume Portlaoise, Mullingar and Ballinasloe units. 

Minister for Health Simon Harris is considering whether or not to adopt downgrade as policy but there is significant public opposition in the midlands to such a move.

Substantial changes have been made in the running of Portlaoise unit since the deaths of babies exposed by RTÉ PrimeTime Investigates Fatal Failures programme in 2014. Births also declined after a rapid period of growth.

The HIQA investigation report into the hospital published in 2015 showed that between 2000 and 2012 there was a 100% increase in the number of births at the hospital. This equated to 1,047 births in 2000 and 2059 in 2013. Births peaked in 2010 at 2,332. The trend up to 2010 mirrored a national trend. 

A follow up report in December 2016 said there were 1,606 births in 2015 with a projected estimate of 1,300-1,400 births for 2016. The outurn for last year was slightly ahead of projections.

CSO Vital Statistics from April to June 2017 show that the birth rate in Laois is 13.8% per thousand of population. This compares to a national rate of 12.7%.

Figures for the second quarter showed that there were 298 births to women living in Laois. This outstrips Kilkenny, Offaly and is just one less the Westmeath. 

Outside of Dublin, only Kildare had a higher birth rate in Leinster. 

Women living Kildare, Offaly and Tipperary have babies in Portlaoise.