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Dáil Éireann - Private Members Business (Social Deomocrats-Green Party Group)
Wednesday 5 April 2017

132b. “That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:
— a premature baby is a baby who is delivered at less than 37 weeks gestation;

— 1 in 16 women in Ireland will deliver a premature baby;

— according to figures from the Economic and Social Research Institute and the Central Statistics Office, over 4,500 babies are born prematurely in Ireland every year, which in 2014 was 6.6 per cent of all births;

— under the Maternity Acts 1994 and 2004 a mother is entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave and Maternity Benefit and an additional 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave;

— maternity leave generally comes into effect on the birth of the child and does not take into account whether the child is full-term or premature;

— babies surviving from the earliest gestations, such as 23 weeks, can spend months in a neonatal unit in hospital, including in intensive care units, and that most babies who are discharged from a unit on supportive medical equipment require full-time care in the home and will need to attend regular clinics and therapy appointments;

— allowances are available in the Acts for a mother to defer her maternity leave while a baby is hospitalised, however, these allowances do not adequately provide for the needs of premature
babies, and this inadequacy is particularly apparent in instances where mothers are ill, or have undergone a caesarean section, or when premature babies have been transferred from rural
hospitals to Dublin neonatal units; and

— premature babies are more at risk of disease and infection than full-term babies, including a higher risk of respiratory problems such as respiratory distress syndrome, neonatal infections,
heart problems, intraventricular haemorrhage in the brain, retinopathy of prematurity, hyperbilirubinemia, hypothermia and necrotising enterocolitis;


— that the present length of maternity and paternity leave does not recognise the difficulty for parents of premature babies, whose leave begins long before they can take their baby home from hospital;

— that parents must spend significant time and resources on caring for their premature babies;

— that in some cases, parents of premature babies from rural areas are compelled to travel for up to four hours on a daily commute to Neonatal Intensive Care Units, thus incurring significant
expenses in medical care, accommodation, transport, parking and basic meals; and

— the emotional and financial burden placed on parents caring for premature babies and the need for specialised support, particularly for parents who have other children;

calls on the Government to extend the period of statutory maternity leave and Maternity Benefit for mothers of premature babies, by the length of time between the delivery date of the baby and either the date the baby would have been delivered if full-term or the date of the baby leaving hospital, whichever is later, and that this extension be in addition to the current entitlement to 26 weeks maternity leave and Maternity Benefit and the additional 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave under the Maternity Acts 1994 and 2004; and

further calls on the Government to:

— extend paternity leave to incorporate the circumstances of premature babies;

— provide additional financial support, where necessary, for the families of premature babies, in relation to travel and accommodation costs, so the family unit can stay together;

— ensure that forms and information on maternity leave and related benefits are available in all neonatal units;

— publish advice for all employers about how to best support parents of premature babies; and

— require employers to have a policy in place for supporting parents of premature babies.”— Catherine Martin, Eamon Ryan.

[30 March, 2017]