A RISING birth rate and impending retirements is set to pile pressure on the maternity unit in the Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, according to nurses.
Almost 200 babies have been born every month in the hospital, over the last four years. The latest figures from the HSE reveal that up to October of last year, there was a total of 1,925 births in Portlaoise. The total figure for 2010 was 2,329, over 60 more births than for the year 2009.
Lorraine Monaghan is the industrial relations officer for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation in the midlands. She said the hospital is facing a serious situation due to the public service recruitment ban. She said it was crippling the service.
“The staffing levels on the Maternity Unit in Portlaoise are inadequate and have been for some time. Staff who have left the Unit over the past number of years have not been replaced due to the moratorium on recruitment and this is crippling the service.
“The midwives in Portlaoise are working in a highly pressurised, stressful environment due to the depletion in staffing numbers in conjunction with the high activity levels,” said the union rep.
Ms Monaghan expects at least four midwives will retire before the end of February in the Hospital.
“It is absolutely imperative that these midwives are replaced in order to provide a safe service to mothers and babies. Staffing levels in any hospital should be sufficient to meet the needs of the population it covers and as we all know, Laois has been identified in the latest census as having the highest population growth in the country, at 20 per cent over the last five years.
“This, not surprisingly has led to increased pressure on the Maternity Unit and Portlaoise Hospital as a whole,” she said.
The maternity unit serves not only the county of Laois, but also parts of Carlow and Kildare. Despite this plans for a new unit have been put on hold, according to the HSE.
“The development of the new maternity unit at Portlaoise has been included in the HSE’s Capital Plan. The preliminary design of the unit has been completed. However further progress on the development has been deferred due to funding constraints,” a spokesperson explained.