Limerick mother feared for baby’s life at maternity hospital

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh

Parents Erin Gaffney and Paul Gaffney with four-week-old Dean. Erin told the Limerick Leader that she was 'disgusted' with her experience at UMHL. Picture: Adrian Butler
A YOUNG Murroe mother says that she is “afraid to have another child” after she feared for her first baby’s health at the University Maternity Hospital Limerick last month.

A YOUNG Murroe mother says that she is “afraid to have another child” after she feared for her first baby’s health at the University Maternity Hospital Limerick last month.

Parents Erin and Paul Gaffney have issued a complaint to the Health Service Executive (HSE), as the 32-year-old mother has felt “extreme anger” after the birth of her son, saying that it could have been a “different experience” if more nurses and midwives were staffed at the hospital.

While critical of the experience and mainly the lack of staff, she praised many of the staff describing them as “amazing.”

Erin, was admitted to the Ennis Road hospital on the first week of September, suffering with high blood pressure and was experiencing bad headaches with blurred vision. Because of her condition, her consultant advised her to remain in the hospital a week before being induced.

Ms Gaffney, who is a nurse, said that she was “terrified” of sleeping after an incident - following the birth of her son Dean and surgery, - when the baby was choking on his own vomit.

Before the incident, the new mother was advised to get some rest, the baby was placed in the cot by a midwife, and she was shown the emergency call button, if she required assistance.

Unable to get up properly due to the surgery, which involved the removal of a cyst, she attempted to ring the emergency bell and was “panicking” over her child choking. When a staff member did not arrive, according to her official complaint, a mother of twins got out of her bed and picked her son out of the cot, and “passed him to me and helped him to empty his mouth”.

Twenty minutes after she first alerted staff, she said a nurse came into the ward, changed her son “who was covered in spew”, and told her that she was sorry and “was very busy”.

“She told me not to try to get up again as I may rip my stitches. I was terrified to sleep for the rest of the night. What if he spewed again and no one was able to help me again,” her complaint stated.

She added that she was “absolutely outraged at how this could be how the hospital is staffed”, adding that her husband — who was asked to go home — could have stayed to take care of them.

She stated that she was “feeling stressed and anxious”, fearing that her newborn child would choke on his vomit again.

Though she feels the maternity hospital was understaffed, she said that most of the midwives were “amazing”.

She said that after the surgery, breastfeeding was “very difficult” and had “pains everywhere”, but added that the lactation nurses whom she dealt with were also “amazing.

“They helped me to feel better and even held Dean up to my breast for me at one stage.”

In her complaint, she stated that there had been confusion in relation to his jaundiced condition. She claims some staff were urging the baby to be fed with a formula, while others did not feel treatment was necessary.

She said that this incident made her “upset”.

Also in her complaint to the HSE, she said that she was frustrated trying to find out more information regarding the surgery after she gave birth.

When a health professional explained to her the procedures that followed the birth of Dean, who is now almost five weeks old, she thanked her and told her that she was “very upset with the whole situation.

“I was disgusted with the whole hospital experience,” she added.

The UL Hospitals Group stated: “For reasons of patient confidentiality, UL Hospitals does not comment on individual cases.

“Patients who are dissatisfied with their care are encouraged to engage in the complaints process. UL Hospitals welcomes complaints and feedback so we can continue to improve our services.

“ Patients can make a complaint in writing to the hospital, by emailing or by calling 1850 24 1850. A complaints officer will look into the matters raised within 30 days of the date when the complaint was acknowledged.

“If it takes longer to examine the issues raised, the complainant will be notified within those 30 days,” a spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group said.

The UL Hospitals Group has engaged in a recruitment campaign since the start of the year, with 55 midwives being employed and additional midwifery graduates due to start in the coming weeks.

UMHL has also recruited two clinical skills facilitators this year to assist the hospital’s new midwives.