‘Important practical issues’ remain as abortion services begin in Limerick

UMHL is now able to carry out abortions, the HSE has confirmed

UMHL is now able to carry out abortions, the HSE has confirmed

UNIVERSITY Maternity Hospital Limerick and local clinics continue to face issues with carrying out abortion services, despite the HSE rolling out the procedure for the first time this week. 

The HSE announced on New Year’s morning that UMHL and all registered GPs and clinics can now provide abortions. 

President Michael D Higgins signed the Health (Termination of Pregnancy) Act into law on December 20. It was then announced that abortion services would commence 11 days later.

Though the service has been available since this Tuesday, it is unlikely an abortion will be carried out at the Ennis Road hospital this week, according to sources.

One source said that the start-date “was a mistake”. A source said that “small, but very important details” have to be dealt with, including the disposal of remains.

“This is obviously a very important practical issue that has to be done very properly and respectfully,” the Leader was told. 

Workshops on how staff can communicate with patients are also expected to be rolled out, it is understood. “The staff are very unfamiliar with it, so it’s quite a difficult thing. People shouldn’t underestimate the immense difficulty that there is for the service provider.”

County Limerick GP, Dr Yvonne Williams said GPs have been given little information on the service.

“I have heard nothing from the HSE apart from a form about expressing an interest. No information yet on helpline or providers or how to access hospital care or if it will even be available locally from tomorrow [Tuesday].”

The HSE could not provide the number of GPs in Limerick who will be providing the service. But it said that 179 GPs have been registered and “each day more GPs are signing up, as the service evolves”. 

Dr Williams said that GPs “don’t believe it should be a GP-led service given the current crisis in healthcare”, and that many do not wish to provide the service due to “excessive workload and lack of resources”.

The service is not yet available at the Limerick Family Planning Clinic on Mallow Street. However, it said it will be up and running “shortly”.

The UL Hospitals Group said: “It is anticipated that termination of pregnancy services will for the most part be provided by the patient’s GP. As set out in the legislation however, hospitals will also be providing services for women and UMHL is ready to start receiving referrals. Education and information sessions for staff are ongoing in this regard.”

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