HIGH infant and neonatal mortality rates in Limerick highlight the urgency of a new maternity hospital for the region, according to Labour’s Cllr Elena Secas.
She was reacting to recent media reports that showed Limerick city - at 7.9 deaths per 100,000 infants aged under one year - had the highest infant mortality rate in the country.
The figures, which were published as part of an Irish Examiner investigation, are taken from CSO data from 2011 and Cllr Secas said that while the picture may have improved since, Limerick remains worse than average.
CSO data for Limerick city from 2013 shows there were four deaths of children aged one year and under last year, three of these relating to neonatal deaths (28 days and under). That left the city with an infant mortality rate of 4.7 per 100,000 - the sixth highest in Ireland.
“While I understand that there might be more causes for high infant mortality rates, the quality of healthcare and the access to it in Limerick city are playing a part,” said Cllr Secas.
And it is in this context that she is urging fellow councillors to support a motion calling on the Minister for Health to speed up the relocation of University Maternity Hospital on the Ennis Road to the main hospital campus in Dooradoyle.
This is an ambition of UL Hospitals’ strategic plan but no target date has been set.
“I understand that the neonatal mortality figures, which account for about 80% of infant deaths, have improved in 2012 and 2013, possibly as a result of investment in consultant neonatology services that was driven by the medical staff and supported by the local management team,” said Cllr Secas. She was accordingly disappointed to learn that a recently appointed consultant neonatologist is to leave at the end of this year with another due to retire.
“It will be difficult to attract the highest calibre of specialists to work at a hospital where the facilities and working environment are relatively poor compared with other large maternity hospitals,” Cllr Secas said.
The current hospital building is over 50 years old is the fifth busiest of 19 maternity units in the country, Cllr Secas said. Despite this, it has no intensive care or high dependency unit, she added.