An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Tuesday, December 17, 2002  

Premature Baby

The hysteria in the Irish press continues over the case of Bronagh Livingstone the premature baby who died in Cavan General Hospital. She was born in an ambulance on the way from Monaghan Hospital where her mother was refused admittance when she showed up in labour. Despite the fact that I am always happy to see FF in trouble, I think that in this case the Irish media have gone completely overboard.

Firstly, while the baby was born in the ambulance it did make it alive and well to Cavan General and was treated there. Whatever complications arose as a result of her premature birth arose after she was in the care of the right people. Secondly, best medical practice says that in order for medical staff to treat various categories of patients, especially cancer patients, but including premature babies or very sick babies, a critical mass must be reached. In other words, an effective post-natal unit should treat a minimum number of cases each year in order to achieve a level of expertise that will benefit the babies.

This means that while small maternity units in rural areas are a good idea for normal births (which in fairness constitute most births), it's bad for the ones who run into trouble. It is better for all premature babies that they are treated in centralised units where the expertise is available. There is no certainty whatsoever that had the baby been treated at Monaghan that she would have lived. I think the press should be looking for comments from obstetricians and researching this issue instead of extensively quoting the highly emotional family. Its particularly unfair to villify the Minister given that a baby of his died not so long ago. He is hardly unsympathetic.

posted by Sarah | 12:09 0 comments
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