Coombe and Portlaoise maternity hospitals are integrated
Dublin Midlands hospital management claim the maternity network between the Coombe and Portlaoise hospitals will continue while at the same time removing the 24/7 emergency department from Laois Hospital.
However, Laois GPs have said the the loss of A&E will end maternity care because paediatric services cannot be provided where there is no emergency department.
According to the leaked draft Dublin Midland Hospital Group Strategic Plan, management say the priority for developing women and infants services will be to ensure 'excellent outcomes' for all women requiring obstetrical gynaecological care for all infants.
The maternity unit at the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise was put under the management of the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital. That was after the crisis in Portlaoise in 2014 when RTÉ revealed that babies had died unnecessarily.
The DMHG says many of the problems have been addressed since then. Dr Peter Boylan, who investigated many complaints about Portlaoise, said in 2017 that the maternity unit is now as safe as any other unit in the country.
In its strategic plan, the DMHG pledges to continue the maternity network between the Coombe and Portlaoise and progress the implementation of the memorandum of understanding between the two.
Other maternity steps the group wants to take is the implementation of a maternity and neonatal clinical management systems.
"We will continue to work with the National Children's Hospital Group and operate a hub and spoke model between the midlands and NCH group endeavouring to care for all common paediatric medical and surgical conditions that do not require referral to the tertiary paediatric centre," says the plan.
However, Laois GPs believe there is no future for the Portlaoise maternity unit if the DMHG downgrade emergency care.
"It is indefensible that management propose to remove services from an area with a rapidly growing population. Their plan will mean the closure of paediatrics and maternity at MRH Portlaoise," said a statement.
"You can't deliver a baby where there are no paediatricians," said a spokesperson.
She added that the clinical leaders at national level have made it clear that if A&E goes paediatric services will be withdrawn. She Portlaoise's maternity care would be reduced to outpatients only.
The number of children born at Portlaoise to June 2017 was 750. Last year 1,485 babies were delivered at the Laois hospital - a 7.5% decrease on the previous year.
At its peak, prior to the controversy, more than 2,000 babies were delivered in Portlaoise mainly from Laois and Kildare.
The number of births fell by 100 at the Coombe hospital to 8303 between 2015 and 2016.