Maternal Mortality Had Been Virtually Eliminated In Ireland – Austerity, Poor Economic Recovery, And Possibly Poor Reporting Brings It Back
Even today the maternal mortality rate in Ireland remains one of the best in the developed world ((WHO)). Over the last two decades maternal mortality has averaged about 4 deaths per 100,00 live births. Frequently there are no maternal deaths at all. However, in the last five years, since the economic crash and austerity measure, Ireland’s rate has been on an upward trajectory. Other factors also challenge further progress.
Paradoxically there is concern with having low maternal mortality rates, when a crisis happens. Low rates generate complacency. Maternal risks in Ireland have been low for so long that the government does not have a specific plan in place to address maternal mortality ((CEDAW 2003 94 )). As a consequence, mortality rates are not systemically collected and there now appears to be a discrepancy in recording ((Shannon 2010)). While this is not unique to Ireland it does raise a concern. The current attitude and perception of maternal risk makes it difficult – especially in economic hard times – to dedicate the resources necessary to protect women.
While 100% of women appear to still have access to medical guidance at birth there is evidence that women are not able to spend the time necessary to access these service (limited time off work and limited appointment schedules) ((Population Reference Bureau, The World’s Women and Girls, 2011, 19 October 2012)) ((Grainne Cunningham, Hospitals are forcing women to give birth in under 12 hours, The Independent, 23 February 2009 para. 1-5, 7-9 )). Among other concerns “A comprehensive assessment of the three main specialist hospitals identified serious shortcomings in staffing and infrastructure and criticised the use of artificial means to speed up births — so women would give birth within 12 hours….All three hospitals are chronically understaffed, with an additional 20 obstetricians, 221 midwives, 20 neonatal nurses, and 35 theatre staff required. The number of delivery suites in all three needs to be almost doubled to meet demand. Postnatal care is minimal and needs to be expanded”.
Without a national action plan to address these health concerns little change is likely to occur to reduce mortality risk and properly account for the reality of risk mothers face.