Over 11,000 people (including college students) have signed a successful petition for Cavan General Hospital’s Maternity Led Unit (MLU) to remain open, as Minister for Health Simon Harris vows to continue its services after meeting with the Midwives Association of Ireland on Friday.
The online campaign was launched by the Save Cavan Midwifery-Led Unit (MLU) in reaction to the closure of Cavan General’s MLU, after a joint decision by the Hospital and the RCSI Group to refuse further bookings effectively ended its services as of June 1st. Hospital authorities cited a merger with the “consultant-led” unit as the basis for the MLU’s closure, but Save Cavan’s petition page submitted that no detailed rationale was given nor public consultation held.
The move sparked consternation online with prominent academics and expectant mothers voicing their opposition and past users of the MLU shared their experiences through “Cavan Birth Stories”. Midwifery students at Dundalk Institute of Technology were also left “in limbo” as MLU placement hours for professional qualification faced going unfulfilled.
Speaking to The College Tribune, Dundalk IT student and Student Representative for the Irish Nurses and Midwives organisation, Laura Henry, commented that “the 2018/2019 cohort of students still have placement hours to complete in MLUs” and that “these hours are core placement hours that must be completed in order to qualify and register as midwives at the end of the four year degree”. She added that although some “higher education institutes providing midwifery training have found other ways to circumvent the EU Directive requirements for clinical midwifery placements” due to the general lack of midwifery led services in Ireland, there is serious concern that because of the “small size of the services” trained in by Dundalk students “will be that there simply is not enough availability to meet the requirements for all students, both undergraduate and postgraduate midwifery candidates, within the timeframe of the programme”.
Given the lack of midwifery led services in Ireland, the closure of any facilities in the country would likely negatively affect midwife students from all universities, including UCD, as the competition for midwifery graduate jobs would be affected.
Remarking on the benefits of MLU care to expectant mothers and student training, Ms. Henry said that “this model of care provides a unique opportunity to provide high quality, holistic, evidence based care as well as continuity of care from a known midwife or small team of midwives. This service creates a unique learning environment where student midwives can truly experience the midwifery led model with medical intervention available as necessary”. Responding to being asked how the MLU’s closure had personally affected her and her fellow students, Ms. Henry said that “it appears to send a message to midwives and service users of ‘we know best’ and ‘you don’t matter’”.
Minister Harris’s intervention comes as his cabinet colleague Heather Humphreys, Fine Gael TD for Cavan Monaghan and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation reaffirmed “that the Government is fully committed to the implementation of the National Maternity Strategy”. She further added that Minister Harris and “his Department was not informed of any proposal to close the unit” and that “the Strategy outlines a new model of maternity care, which includes expanding, not reducing, midwife-led care throughout the country”.
Rowan Kelleher – Reporter