Posted: September 18th, 2013
A senior doctor has claimed that more could be done to reduce cases of cerebral palsy in Ireland and called on the HSE to provide more comprehensive cover for labour wards.
Dr Sam Coulter-Smith – Master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin – was speaking at a conference organised to hear from doctors, midwives, families and members of the legal profession on how preventable cases of cerebral palsy in Ireland could be reduced.
He told attendees that one of the major reasons for cases of cerebral palsy in Ireland was that consultants work under a contract which only requires them to be present in a hospital from 8.00 in the morning to 8.00 in the evening. Outside of these hours, a senior doctor may be on call, but he could be many miles away when a medical emergency occurs.
The doctor said that this situation often results in inexperienced medical staff having to make decisions which affect the healthcare of mothers and their babies and said “there needs to be twenty-four hour cover of labour wards by senior doctors to address this problem.”
Dr Coulter-Smith informed the conference delegates that the annual number of cases of cerebral palsy in Ireland has remained the same over the past twenty years despite more foetal monitoring and more deliveries being conducted by Caesarean section.
The doctor continued by explaining the situation at his own hospital, where a second level of experienced junior doctors has been introduced to provide cover for labour wards outside of consultants´ contracted hours.
However Dr Coulter-Smith admitted that the creation of a second level of experienced junior doctors had been contrary to the instructions to reduce the number of medical staff employed at the hospital provided by the HSE.
The doctor commented that the State currently pays €45 million each year in compensation payments to victims of cerebral palsy due to hospital negligence – an amount equivalent to the Rotunda Hospital´s annual budget – and he suggested that investing more to reduce the number of cases of cerebral palsy in Ireland may be a more prudent option.