Portlaoise hospital's maternity unit has become one of the first in the country outside Dublin to offer specialist foetal anomaly scanning to pregnant women.
The Leinster Express understands that the scanning service became operational on December 19. The service is to be provided to all women at 20 week stage so that problems and abnormalities can be diagnosed or ruled out earlier than regular ultrasounds.
Before the link was established between the Coombe Women and Infant's University Hospital in Dublin no such scanning was provided in the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise or in many other hospitals. Once the link was created between the two hospitals, women were offered the service in the Dublin hsopital at a cost of €160.
However, the Leinster Express understands that at new specially equipped unit in Portlaoise will offer scans to all women as a matter of course. A specialist sonographer carries out the scans.
Laois GP Dr Michelle Byrne welcomed the news.
"It is good news for the hospital and patients. This service is not offered at many hospitals around the country and it should be," she said.
The Irish Maternal Foetal Foundation says that while the vast majority of babies are healthy, all women, whatever their age, have a small chance of delivering a baby with a physical or a mental problem. It says many such abnormalities can be diagnosed and ruled out with the foetal anomaly scan.