MLU report due for publication after Dáil summer recess

A report on the future of the Midwifery Led Unit (MLU) in Cavan General Hospital is expected to be on the new Minister for Health's desk by the time the Dáil reconvenes after the Summer recess.

The report was one of the last commissioned by Minister Simon Harris prior to handing over the reins to Fianna Fáil's Stephen Donnelly following the installation of a new government.

The report was ordered after the MLU was merged with the mainsteam, consultant-led maternity unit at the the hospital at the beginning of last month. No new cases were being admitted from June 1. But within a matter of days, and following public outcry and a petition of over 7,000 signatures, the merger was paused pending a review. GPs have since been instructed that they can continue to refer patients to the MLU.

Minister Harris and the department admitted to having been blind-sided by the decision by the RCSI Group, which governs Cavan General. The previous government administration was put on the back foot and forced to defend its track-record in implementing the 2016 National Maternity Strategy, which commits to enhancing and developing midwifery-led services nationally.

In only his first week in office, the new Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly made a clear statement that he is “fully committed” to the implementation of the contents of the NMS.

As stated by his predecessor, Minister Donnelly said the Department “has requested”, and “is awaiting”, a full report regarding the MLU in Cavan.

“Once the full report has been received, my Department will work with the National Women & Infants Health Programme (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.”

A co-founder and joint leader of the Social Democrats before switching to Fianna Fáil in 2016, Minister Donnelly previously visited Cavan General as spokesperson for Health at the behest of fellow party colleague Niamh Smyth back in June 2018.

Prior to taking up his position on the front-bench, he had asked former Minister Harris a series of scoping questions regarding the future of the Cavan MLU. This included knowing the number of persons accessing services at both the MLU and consultancy-led services for the five-year period between 2014-2019.

Full review underway

An initial assessment of the Cavan MLU merger decision was handled by the NWIHP. That has now been completed and, following this, terms of reference for the full review agreed. Those terms are, as yet, unpublished but the review is “currently underway”.

This is being led by the RCSI Group clinical director for maternity services in conjunction with the directors of midwifery from Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda and the Rotunda Hospitals.

The report is due to be finalised for publication by September.