The Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar.

Hospital details plans to improve maternity experience for mothers

As many as 15% of the participants in a national survey on maternity services, just published, gave Mullingar hospital a rating of just ‘fair to poor’.

In the National Maternity Experience Survey, 54% of participants rated their experience at Mullingar regional hospital as having been ‘very good’ and a further 31% rated their experience as ‘good’, but among the remaining 15 percent there was some disappointment with their experience.

Nationally, more than 3,200 new mothers took part in the survey, which asked women about their recent experiences of Ireland’s maternity services – from antenatal care, through labour and birth, to postnatal care.

Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar was one of the 19 participating hospitals. All hospitals surveyed – including Mullingar – have drawn up plans of action to address the issues or concerns raised by patients who took part in the survey.

The survey found that most women had a good experience of Irish maternity care, though 15% did not.

While many women said that they were treated with respect and dignity, and praised midwives and staff, there are several areas in need of improvement.

Women commented that staff were often too busy to help.

Mullingar patients

Some 45% of women said that they had a very good overall experience of the care their baby received in the neonatal unit in Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar, compared with 70% nationally.

Asked about care during labour and birth, survey participants scored Mullingar 8.7 out of a possible 10, which was about the same as the national average.

Under this heading, the highest-scoring question related to the opportunity for women to have skin to skin contact with their baby shortly after birth. The lowest-scoring question related to the involvement of women in decisions about care during labour and birth.

The hospital scored a 7.5 rating out of a possible 10 in the area of care while pregnant (antenatal care).

According to the survey team, this was about the same as the national average.

The highest-scoring question under this heading related to receipt of information on giving up smoking while pregnant. The lowest-scoring question related to the receipt of information about changes in mental health.

Ratings of ‘care in hospital after the birth’ were about the same as the national average. The highest-scoring question related to being told who to contact after discharge.

The lowest-scoring question related to ‘debriefing’ and the opportunity for women to ask questions about their labour and birth after the baby was born.

Ratings in the area of ‘feeding’ were about the same as the national average. The highest-scoring question related to respect for decisions about how women wanted to feed their baby. The joint lowest-scoring questions related to support and encouragement provided to women with feeding their baby in hospital.

The hospital’s ratings on the subject of care at home after the birth were about the same as the national average. The highest-scoring question related to clear answers from the public health nurse, The lowest-scoring question related to the time spent by the GP or practice nurse/midwife discussing mental health during the six-week check-up.

Management response and commitments

Declan Lyons, group chief executive, Ireland East Hospital Group – of which Mullingar Hospital is a member – said that the group understands that the current visitor restrictions in the maternity hospitals have proven particularly difficult.

“However, I wish to ensure all new mothers that these measures were implemented to ensure a safe and healthy delivery for mothers and their baby, as well as to protect staff and maintain services during an unprecedented time in our healthcare history and in consideration of protecting everyone in the hospital contracting Covid-19.”

Among the measures that Mullingar hospital has volunteered to introduce to address points raised by participants in the survey is a commitment to enhance the current provision of antenatal education services in Westmeath and the neighbouring counties.

It also plans to make antenatal education more accessible to women via social media platforms and has undertaken to ensure that expectant mothers each receive a copy of the ‘My Pregnancy’ book.

The response also states that the Maternity Regional Hospital Mullingar in partnership with the National Perinatal Mental Health Team is implementing a Mental Health Promotion Programme for women during pregnancy.

This month, October, is to see a perinatal mental health CNM2 post filled. The new appointee will provide a lead on staff education and support forums for mothers.

The response went on to state that the Maternity Regional Hospital Mullingar is implementing quality improvement initiatives to improve women’s experience of labour and birth and to facilitate shared decision making with women and their partners.

To this end, staff have been allowed to participate in the National Healthcare Communication programme; an initiative to promote better pain relief during labour, called Hopscotch has been rolled out in the maternity department.

Birth plans are encouraged to be submitted by the patients and are discussed with the midwife and the obstetrician.

A ‘home-from-home’ room has been developed within the labour ward to promote physiological birth and to promote natural methods of pain relief.

Several midwives have been trained in the use of aromatherapy in childbirth and a guideline has been developed to support their practice.

Women will receive health information about health and well-being after birth including the mental health changes that occur in the postnatal phase; the role of all midwives in supporting women to breastfeed will be actively promoted.

In addition, the hospital says, women will know where they can access emotional support if their new infant baby is in the Neonatal or Specialised Care Unit.

Social support networks and community supports such as the Irish Neonatal Alliance will be shared with all women and families as appropriate and support will also be available from the early intervention teams.