Written Answers. - Epidural Service.

Liam Hyland


27 Mr. Hyland asked the Minister for Health the hospitals where epidurals are (1) available and (2) not available for pregnant women; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4294/97]

Limerick East): While the provision of specific hospital services is a matter for individual health boards and voluntary hospitals, it is my view that the provision of an epidural service by trained hospital staff to women during childbirth should be an integral part of the service provided by maternity hospitals and units.

I am informed that all voluntary maternity hospitals and units are providing a 24 hour epidural service for women during childbirth. The majority of maternity units within health board hospitals also provide the service on demand. In general, hospitals unable to provide a 24 hour service are providing an epidural service, for specified periods, by prior arrangement.

I am aware that there have been difficulties in providing an epidural service at Sligo General Hospital in the past. The desirability of continuing the service had to be reviewed by the North Western Health Board against a background of increasing demand and concerns about patient safety. The full service implication is being reappraised by the health board with a view to putting in place a significantly enhanced service. I would anticipate the health boards will continue to make provision for further improvements in the general delivery of epidural services in their 1997 service plans.

If the Deputy has a particular case in mind perhaps he might furnish me with the details and I will be pleased to have the matter examined.