I propose to take Questions Nos. 514, 515, 552, 560, 561, 563 to 565, inclusive, 589 and 675 together.
Firstly, I would like to be clear that the Government is fully committed to the ongoing implementation of the National Maternity Strategy. The Strategy is evidence based, in line with international norms and was informed by the voices of women from across the country, drawn from the 1,324 responses received during the public consultation process. Outlined in the Strategy is a new model of care for maternity services with three care pathways - Supported, Assisted and Specialised - ensuring that women receive the right care, from the right professional, at the right time in the right place. In line with that model of care, pregnant women deemed to be at normal risk will be offered, and encouraged to avail of, care in the Supported Care pathway. Key to realising this goal is the development and expansion of community midwifery services, as recommended in the Strategy.
Good progress has been made since the Strategy’s publication in 2016, with midwifery led and community-based services increasingly available across the country. On Friday 5th of June last the National Women & Infants Health Programme applied for a drawdown of new development funding which is being provided for maternity services in 2020. This funding request was approved on 10th June and will facilitate the further development of community midwifery services around the country. The drawdown approval specifically includes funding for an Advanced Midwifery Practitioner in Cavan General Hospital to provide additional senior midwifery expertise and capability and enable the further expansion of community midwifery services in Cavan.
I was very surprised at media reports of the proposed closure of the Midwifery Led Unit in Cavan as neither I, nor my Department, was advised of any intended change in relation to maternity services at the hospital. It is clear that any cessation or diminution of midwifery led services is not in line with the recommendations of the Strategy. Therefore, my Department has requested, and is currently awaiting, a full report from the National Women & Infants Health Programme (NWIHP) on the situation in Cavan General Hospital. Assurances have also been sought from the Programme that maternity services within the RCSI Hospital Group are, and will continue to be, developed in line with Government policy.
Once the full report has been received, my Department will work with the NWIHP to ensure that any additional supports which are required to secure the future of community midwifery services in Cavan, will be put in place. This will ensure that the choice of the Supported Care pathway remains available to women attending Cavan General Hospital for maternity services.
With regard to your particular queries in relation to the numbers of women attending the Cavan Midwifery Led Unit, as these are operational issues, I have asked the Health Service Executive to reply to you directly.