Meeting challenges, making progress and giving thanks
You can download our latest newsletter for 2020, the UltraNews Winteredition here, featuring stories from CUMH and the maternity units in UHK, UHW and STGH - The Ireland South Women & Infants Directorate.
COVID‐19 caused an unprecedented global healthcare crisis. Our directorate continues to address the many challenges that our maternity, gynaecology and neonatology services face to ensure services are maintained and the welfare of our patients and staff protected. Strict visiting restrictions have been a difficult but necessary requirement to protect women, their newborns and the staff caring for them. These restrictions are reviewed regularly by the executive management team and any changes are co-ordinated across our hospitals/units. With a very low rate of the virus among our patients and staff, we know that these difficult restrictions have worked, but we acknowledge the distress and anxiety they may cause.
While the pandemic brought with it many challenges, it has also highlighted the many strengths within the service. Our ability to adapt and change our services is of particular note. Across the directorate, outreach clinics are seeing more maternity and gynaecology patients, and while face-to-face contact times with patients have reduced, virtual appointments have increased and online video has been made available to support antenatal and postnatal education. Staff roles too have had to adapt to support women emotionally at what can be a very vulnerable time.
Well done to UHK on setting up their Early Transfer Home Scheme at the end of September for healthy mothers and babies. This enables mothers to return to the comfort of their home, knowing that they have the support of a midwife who will call in and provide them with one-to-one care and support for the first few days. This scheme will be rolling out to all units in due course.
STGH introduced an initiative to provide Cervical screening for staff. With this initiative, staff can have their routine screening test while on duty or can opt to have it done in STGH on their day off. A project in STGH and UHW to provide effective intervention and tackle maternal smoking is demonstrating exciting results with quit rates consistently above 80% at 4 weeks, way above that of any comparable group.
Lactation Consultants in-training in UHW launched the ‘Hand Expressing Starter Pack’ in UHW during Breastfeeding Week, a simple and effective way of giving a mum with a premature baby, all she needs to get the process of hand expressing started. The DOMINO Home Birth programme in UHW is also reporting growing popularity during the pandemic.
As a result of the ongoing, outstanding efforts of the CUMH team, the outpatient gynaecology waiting list now stands at approximately 1,000, in-line with pre-COVID levels this time last year. The inpatient waiting list too is improving and we are addressing the numbers the extra outpatient clinics have brought alongside the backlog from less theatre taking place during the height of the pandemic. We are still waiting on the funding, committed to us by the Minister in 2017 which would provide a five-day gynaecology theatre service and a one-stop shop for gynaecology in Cork.
Our Annual Report 2019 was launched recently and can be downloaded here. Our 2019 report is a step change on previous annual reports, containing a wide range of achievements and challenges, useful infographics and a wealth of clinical performance data.
2020 has been a tough journey on all fronts. I want to express my gratitude to all our staff in the Ireland South Women & Infants Directorate for your efforts and ongoing resilience and diligence as we continue to care for patients and keep everyone as safe as possible.
On behalf of Ireland South Women & Infants Directorate, I wish you and your families a very Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Daoibh go léir!
John R. Higgins
Clinical Director, Ireland South Women & Infants Directorate
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
South/South West Hospital Group