The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has welcomed the Minister for Health's "unequivocal" support for Cavan's midwife-led unit (MLU).
Cavan General Hospital's MLU is one of only two such units in the country. It is made up of a team of midwives who provide care for women throughout their pregnancy, during labour and in the postnatal period.
It was introduced in 2004 when a controlled trial (the MidU study) found that midwife-led care was at least as safe as consultant-led care, required less medical intervention, had higher satisfaction rates from women, and was more cost-effective.
A further retrospective cohort study conducted in 2017 showed that midwife-led care is a safe option that could be offered to a large proportion of healthy pregnant women.
The INMO had previously been assured by management at the RCSI hospital group, to which the unit belongs, that full consultation would take place before any decisions on the future of the service were made.
However, in recent days, it appeared that plans to downgrade the service were advancing. At an INMO midwifery section meeting last Saturday, midwives called on the Government to intervene to ensure the promotion of MLUs as set out in the National Maternity Strategy, and to preserve the status of the unit in Cavan.
The INMO raised the issue directly with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, in a meeting on Tuesday, during which he said that in his, and his department's view, there is no threat to the Cavan MLU.
He offered his "unequivocal" support to both the unit and the National Maternity Strategy.
The INMO said it will now be clarifying the unit's future with the RCSI Hospital Group.
"We welcome Minister Harris's support for midwives in the Cavan unit. This is a service that provides skilled care, centred on the needs of the women who use it. Following his clear support, we will be raising matters with the RCSI Hospital Group to provide certainty to our members in Cavan," commented INMO industrial relations officer, David Miskell.
Meanwhile according to the INMO's general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, the country "should be opening more MLUs, not closing or downgrading the two we have".
"Units like this are crucial to implement the National Maternity Strategy," she added.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.