asked the Minister for Health whether his attention has been drawn to statements made by Professor W.J.E. Jessop on 11th March last with regard to the high incidence of anaemia among the patients attending Dublin maternity hospitals; and whether any steps are at present being taken under the Health Acts with a view to the prevention of such wide incidence of anaemia by the provision of improved diets for expectant mothers or by any other measures.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Incidence of Anaemia in Expectant Mothers.
I have seen a report of the statement referred to.
It is normal for a doctor providing maternity care to test his patient for anaemia. The Maternity and Infant Care Scheme provided under the Health Acts includes provision for this test which immediately alerts a doctor as to whether his patient is anaemic so that appropriate measures may be taken—including, if necessary, advice as to diet. For this reason among others every opportunity is taken to urge all women who are eligible for maternity services under the Health Acts to consult their doctors as early as possible in the pregnancy so that any abnormal conditions, including anaemia, may be detected in good time.
In so far as anaemia may be attributed to lack of appropriate nourishment for expectant mothers, I should like to point out that lack of nourishment, where it exists, does not necessarily result from poverty. Nutritional deficiency can result as readily from eating the wrong type of food as from an inadequate supply of food. A maternity patient would be well advised, therefore, to act upon the counsel of her doctor in this respect.
Where a doctor prescribes drugs or medicines for such a condition they are supplied free of charge to patients who are unable to meet the cost. Every expectant mother in the lower income group is entitled, under the Health Acts to a daily supply of milk and this facility is widely availed of. In addition, in the Dublin area charitable organisations provide a substantial mid-day meal to expectant mothers who seek it. One such organisation, which receives a measure of financial assistance, also under the Health Acts, from the Dublin Health Authority—which in turn receives 50 per cent recoupment from the Exchequer—operates 16 centres spread throughout the city at which an average of five hundred dinners were provided daily for expectant mothers in a recent year.