Distress and disbelief as pregnant women told MUH cannot care for them
A number of pregnant Mayo women have been told they will have to travel to Galway to give birth after Mayo University Hospital failed to replace a diabetes specialist midwife who left her post at the end of August.
The announcement caused great distress and led to some emotional scenes at maternity clinics in the Castlebar hospital over the past week.
When contacted by The Mayo News, the Saolta Hospital Group confirmed there is currently a number of vacancies in the diabetes service in MUH. It added that while every effort is being made to replace the midwife, a number of patients have had their care diverted to Galway.
This explanation is of little comfort to the impacted women, who hail from all across Mayo. One of them spoke anonymously to The Mayo News to describe how ‘chaotic scenes’ in Castlebar have impacted on her pregnancy.
“The initial shock of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 28 weeks pregnant was tough, but what has occurred recently has been devastating. When I was told I had the condition I was in an awful state. I felt it was my fault, and on top of normal pregnancy hormones and fears about Covid, it was a tough time.
“However, I soon learned that GD is a common pregnancy-related issue, affecting one in six pregnancies. I was immediately assigned to a Gestational Diabetes Clinic which put me under the care of a new obstetrician and a diabetes team, which includes an endocrinologist and a diabetes midwife.
“This team plays a vital part of the care, reviewing your blood-sugar logs and deciding if you require further intervention, such as medication to assist in control of blood sugars. There are many risks associated with uncontrolled blood sugars during pregnancy – for both the baby and the mother.
“I also had to have additional appointments and scans to monitor the baby and the other risks associated with GD, but I didn’t mind and was delighted with the care being received,” she explained, before saying things began to go wrong at the end of August.
The woman told The Mayo News that it has been two months since her diabetes midwife personally contacted her to let her know she was leaving the job.
“On August 27, I received a text from the diabetes midwife saying she was leaving her post. I thanked her for her support and assumed I would be contacted in due course by her replacement. However, I did not hear from anyone.
“At a clinic on October 7, midwives informed us there was no diabetic team available (no endocrinologist or diabetes midwife). My bloods were okay, so it didn’t impact on me, and I didn’t think much about it. However, one of my friends who was on medication was told her care would now have to be moved to Galway.
“This was a huge shock to us, as MUH had not communicated with us in any way up to that. I suddenly realised if I had any issue with my blood sugars, I would have to go to Galway to be seen.
“We were there alone (because of Covid-19 restrictions), and we were being drip-fed the most distressing of information. It wasn’t the midwives’ fault. They were just passing on the message that should have been communicated to us by hospital authorities over the previous six weeks.”
“Last week, I attended MUH for a clinic and there was no diabetic team again. The midwife apologised, but there was no need – it wasn’t her fault. I asked when the team would be back, and she said she honestly didn’t know what was happening.
“I then sat in the waiting room to see the obstetrician and heard the midwives have some very difficult conversations with other pregnant ladies. They were being informed they had to move their care to Galway. Some ladies were crying, and my heart absolutely broke for them.
“The rest of us were in huge distress and the scenes were chaotic to be honest. It was outrageous and very hard to believe that Mayo women could be treated like this. To think that women in Belmullet or Achill or indeed anywhere in Mayo will now have to travel to Galway for maternity care and to have their babies is beyond belief. What type of hospital have we in Castlebar?
“We’re not being given any proper information. We’re being insulted and kept in the dark. We have no idea why there’s no team to deal with us or if there are plans for a team to return to Castlebar again. There has been no letter, communication or explanation of any type for the basic care that is not being provided.”
When contacted by The Mayo News, the Saolta Hospital Group said MUH is actively recruiting for its diabetes services, with the aim of filling the posts as soon as possible. The recruitment process began as soon as the potential vacancy became known, it said, and in the interim the hospital is working on a safe plan for the diabetes services according to the needs of individual patients.
In recent days, Dara Calleary TD has raised the issue with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and placed a Parliamentary Question on the floor of the Dáil. At present he is awaiting a reply.