Harney forces Cork midwives to resign

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The Minister for Health, Mary Harney, has a lot to answer for. Nurses, midwives, consultants and other staff in the newly opened Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) are stretched to the limit coping with the pressure of expectant mothers and babies from the original three maternity hospitals in the city.

Cork University Maternity Hospital

We spent over two hours in a stuffy, crowded and very warm waiting area to be seen by a midwife and a consultant this morning. It was in stark contrast to the empty hallways and calm of the hospital just two weeks ago when we were given a tour of the facilities and offered a glimpse of a gleaming high-tech maternity environment. Pregnant women, partners and children waited in the sweltering heat while staff were run off their feet. The waiting area was unfortunately too small, there weren’t enough seats, and pregnant women had to make do by leaning against the walls of the corridors while waiting to be seen.

Despite the pressure, staff were as nice as always. Midwives were considerate, helpful and professional, but when asked about how things were going I heard that 2 had resigned and 4 had taken sick leave. As well as being short staffed to begin with, the remaining staff are even worse off now. Some workers are pulling 11 hour days.

Did I forget to mention that this 75 million Euro hospital doesn’t have air conditioning? Can you imagine the heat and mood in a small area where the only air comes from 2 slightly ajar windows and from internal corridors? It wasn’t nice. At least the two expensive flat screen LCD screens on the walls kept us occupied with day time TV courtesy of TV3. Oh yeah, that’s what we need.

Thanks to Mary Harney’s bullying tactics last week the hospital opened a week late on Saturday last. She had threatened to find a different use for the building if midwives didn’t accept her terms and move to the new hospital. Midwives and consultants protested that staffing levels weren’t high enough and I bore witness to that shortage this morning. Even the computer system there is broken and not expected to be working until this evening. No appointments could be made so women had to come on a first-come-first-served basis to the morning clinic. One woman we met there had been there since 8.30am. We arrived at 11am. Apparently it was even worse on Monday.

Teething problems with a new hospital? Perhaps, but if Mary Harney wanted the hospital opened a week previously shouldn’t those problems have been sorted out then?

Truly, healthcare is a vocation. I couldn’t do it. The midwives and staff deserve all the support they can get.


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13 thoughts on “Harney forces Cork midwives to resign


  1. How many hundred thousand years have women been giving birth and how many hundred years have we had hospitals?

    And yet they can’t even get the basic design of the building right, let alone the staffing levels! This isn’t complex stuff, I just cannot fathom how they get it so badly wrong every single time.

    It isn’t just a terrible reflection of governmental incompetence, it also shows that the HSE is just as useless as the bozos they replaced.

    I hope the stress of this is not affecting your wife too badly.


  2. The sad thing is that I think that almost everyone knew that it would be a shambles even before it was built. There seems to be an unwritten rule that things can never be done the right way the first time or indeed at all. We got the appointment for our first scan a couple of weeks back and it mentioned no less than three different hospitals!

    Of course now it will all be in the new hospital but herself has been reading the papers over the past couple weeks and is starting to have serious doubts about having our baby here in Ireland at all.

    But hopefully these are just teething problems like you say.

    I hope all goes well for the two of you!


  3. Best of luck with the baby Donncha. But this is an ever increasing trend with the Government. They just can’t seem to get stuff right. And this benchmarking joke is throwing a spanner in the works all over the country.

    But it is easy for Fianna Fáil to do whatever they want as there are no real opposition at the moment. I have votes Fianna Fáil all my life but I think I am going to vote for a fringe party this time round in the hope someone else (part from Fine Gael who are too similar to Fianna Fáil) might do a better job of it.

    Looking at Sinn Féins work in the North and in the local councils around the country I reckon I might give them a go. We need some radical thinking as I get the sense this country is circling the drain.

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  5. First let me say, “Congratulations!!!!”

    As for the hospital problems, I feel your pain. The midwives here keep migrating from hospital to hospital as a group, and it’s very difficult for the expectant mothers to keep up with them. Most ladies here just give up and go with an OB-Gyn.

    And the insurance filing is sometimes even worse. I had a surgery in January, and I just got a bill for bloodwork that was over $2000! To add insult to injury, I work for the blooming hospital!

    Although, with our temperatures in Texas, if we didn’t have air conditioning, the city would certainly shut the hospital down before there was a riot.


  6. I think mary harney is the wrong person for the job and has been given an easy time by the press. You can’t have that PD mentality in a hospital. You do need innovation but you shouldn’t innovate by providing private clinics for consultants and then getting heavy with midwives and nurses. It’s pure cowardice. And it misses the point, that innovation is needed in the way illness is treated or pregnant women are looked after.

    While we’re at it we should find a way to undermine their use of blogging, podcasting and other new media or at least find a way to make them in someway accountable to our views.

    What you’re saying there makes me really angry. When we had our last child a consultant came in when the baby’s head was half hanging out and “supervised” the birth (and no doubt picked up a grand or two). he was delayed at his private clinic. Actually the consultant wasn’t needed because the midwives were so good but it got my blood boiling that he turned up to pocket the cash. he came to see Roos a couple of days later and stayed the grand total of a minute. We saw it on the VHI bill – £126.

    Now I’ve vented a bit of spleen I should add Donncha – it is going to be a great day for you so forget about these charlatans for the next 3 months.


  7. Hi Donncha,
    best of luck to you, your wife and your baby.
    I hope you will have as much luck at CUMH as the first lady patient to give birth there. Her pic was on the first page of the Irish Examiner on Monday following the opening of a new facility.
    I had a humble role of interpreting for this girl. I had a chance to talk with the midwives who were helping her and I could not resist asking what they thought about the new hospital.
    They did not say much but they did not fail to mention that the staffing levels were indeed inadequate. Four midwives that night and about 12 special deliveries expected.No comment needed here.
    Re the birthing suite, it is very well equipped, it is air conditioned (the AC was switched off just immediately before the delivery to let the room get warm so that the baby would not get cold). The midwives did a great job just as the anaesthetist even if on the first day they had some trouble finding stuff (I know it would not be the case now). Everyone took interest in the patient and even a senior consultant came to ask if everything was going fine and if help was needed.
    I fear though that with inadequate staff levels the CUMH may not deliver so well for others (no pun inteneded!) even if midwives there are really great and surely can do their very best no matter if this is the first labour there or 30th, or 130th etc.
    Still, with the morning clinic on their hands, they are surely stretched beyond limits.


  8. Jacinta and Donncha, good luck with the baby. Can’t believe the due date is so near. By the way Jacinta, did you see Ruth O’Leary’s pic on the paper, as her baby was the last baby to be born in the Bons.


  9. I see it as very simple – the people who design and build these hospitals and run the health service will never be held accountable. Nobody will be fired. That’s the basic problem with the health service. I also suspect there are contracts for the boys involved as well – and the health workers on the coalface get the brunt of it.

    I do feel the nurses need a PR company – they should strike on these issues rather than pay and reduced hours. If the working environment was better then maybe they would cope better with current hours and the public and media would be more supportive.


  10. CUH has a complaints procedure (albeit very under advertised), which I presume extends to the new CUMH.
    Complaints forms piling up on a desk tend to be taken far more seriously than ‘word on the street’. I wish people would investigate using this procedure more…

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