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3 maternal deaths in week: Govt failing to prioritise pregnant women, says advocate

Three maternal deaths have taken place within a week in Ireland, according to reports. University Hospital Kerry has now confirmed that a woman died recently, as deaths were also reported in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and in Cork University Hospital.

The “alarming uptick” in women dying around childbirth led advocate for maternal safety, Mary Fitzgibbon, who is a nurse, midwife, and lecturer in nursing, to say that it is “clear from recent events that the government is not prioritising maternal safety”.

She also pointed to a €9 million funding deficit for the National Maternity Strategy last year, and said that the government needed to be challenged on that deficit “as a matter of urgency”.

As reported earlier this week, Stephy Scaria, a nurse who who lived in Abbeyfeale, tragically died after a caesarean section in Cork University Maternity Hospital last Friday.

Although, Ms Scaria worked in University Hospital Kerry, her death took place in Cork University Hospital who confirmed the maternal death, saying “the Coroner has been notified and in line with HSE policy on all maternal death, an external review will be undertaken.

“CUMH is providing bereavement support to the family at this very sad time,” the hospital added.

“We are absolutely devastated by Stephy’s passing and are struggling to find the funds to cover the cost of her funeral and the repatriation of her remains to India,” her husband Baiju wrote on a Go Fund Me page.

Stephen Scaria (Image: GoFundMe)KERRY 

Separately, University Hospital Kerry has confirmed a maternal death involving a another woman took place at that hospital, with Radio Kerry reporting that the Kerry hospital said that “in line with HSE policy on all maternal deaths, an external review will take place, while the coroner has also been notified”.

UHK management and staff have also expressed their condolences and deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased woman.


In addition, a woman also died tragically died in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda in the last week. Naomi James died on June 23rd, last Sunday, after giving birth to a baby boy, Cal.

On a fundraising page, her friends said that after her death they were reaching out “with heavy hearts and a profound sense of loss.”

“Our dear friend, Naomi tragically passed away on 23rd June under heartbreaking circumstances, leaving behind her loving husband, Michael, and their 4 children, Sadie, twins Avery & Seth & newborn Cal,” they said.

All three maternal deaths in Ireland occurred within one week, according to reports.

A maternal death is such from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy or its management (excluding accidental or incidental causes) during pregnancy and childbirth or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy.

Radio Kerry said that an “external review into the death of Tatenda Mukwata, who died by medical misadventure at UHK after giving birth by C-section over two years ago, is still awaited by her family”.

“The HSE report was originally due 18 months ago, and it has twice been sent to UHK General Manager Mary Fitzgerald, who both times sent it back as she deemed it unacceptable,” the hospital said.

Last October, a report on maternal deaths showed that between 2019 and 2021, some 24 women died either during pregnancy or up to one year afterwards.

As previously reported on Gript, after the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar from sepsis, then Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar set up the National Maternity Strategy group which was tasked with the vitally important business of developing standards and processes.

Funding for the strategy group would be ring-fenced, Mr Varadkar said. However, his successor, now Taoiseach, Simon Harris, then diverted ‘most’ of that funding to pay for abortions.

In 2019, Róisín Molloy, a patient representative on the Strategy steering group said  “the money that had been intended to go on the maternity strategy was effectively being spent on abortion services since January of this year”.

That led to one of just two patient advocates – citizens asked to take part in the HSE board to represent patients – to resign because of the under-funding of the national maternity strategy.

Mark Molloy told The Irish Times he felt he could no longer be part of board decisions “that were serving to erode the integrity of the work he and his wife Róisín Molloy were doing on behalf of patients.”

The Molloys’ son, also Mark, was one of a number of babies who died unnecessarily as a result of failings at Portlaoise hospital, and they have campaigned since for greater accountability and patient representation in the health service. At the weekend, they marked what would have been Mark’s eighth birthday.

Asked what board decisions he was referring to, Mr Molloy referenced the HSE service plan, published last month.

He said he was unable to sign off on the plan as it was providing only a fraction of the funding originally promised for the national maternity strategy. “Medical negligence claims are going through the roof, and most of them are obstetric. And yet the plan could only fund a fraction – 12 per cent – of the €8 million a year that was promised for the strategy.”

The plan, which aimed to develop quality, safe, consistent and well-resourced care in the State’s 19 maternity units, was developed in response to official recommendations following the death of Savita Halappanavar  in a Galway hospital in 2012. Many of its 77 recommendations have yet to be fully implemented.

Launched by Mr Varadkar when he was minister for health in 2016, the 10-year maternity strategy was originally provided with ringfenced funding but most of this money was diverted last year to pay for the new abortion service.

Mary Fitzgibbon, who is also spokeswoman for Nurses and Midwives for Life, described the three deaths in one week as an “alarming uptick” and said that: “It is clear from recent events that the government is not prioritising maternal safety.”

“There is a 9 million funding deficit for the National Maternity Strategy. Ireland up to recently was one of the safest places in the world to have a baby,” she said.

She pointed to a report in the Medical Independent in November 2023, which said that “implementation of the national maternity strategy had been underfunded by almost €9 million in that year, due to the absence of any new development funding”.

A HSE quarterly report submitted to the Department of Health, dated 30 June, stated: “No new development funding was provided for maternity in 2023. As part of the mid-strategy review of the implementation of the National Maternity Strategy, a revised costed, time-bound implementation plan was developed. Pay and non-pay costs identified for 2023 amounted to €8.7 million.”

The level of underfunding in 2023 represented “just under 20 per cent of the total estimated funding required to fully implement the strategy 2022-2026 (€43.6 million)”, outlined the report from the HSE National Women and Infants Health Programme (NWIHP).

In the 2023 estimates the NWIHP had sought €8.55 million for an additional 105.6 whole-time equivalents (WTEs) to support maternity services

Asked about funding for the maternity strategy in 2024, a HSE spokesperson told MI: “Taking into account funding received in previous years, NWIHP put forward an estimate submission of €4.5 million for new service development funding for maternity for 2024. We will await the letter of determination to establish funding allocation.

Last month, media reports indicated that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly was unsuccessful in obtaining additional funding for the maternity strategy for 2024.


This was published on Gript and is printed here with permission


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