Woman recalls 'life saving' maternity care amid calls for maternity services strategy

For Sophie Rusk and her son Tommy, maternity services have quite literally been the difference between life and death.

Sophie was 33 weeks pregnant when she contracted Covid, and ended up in A&E.

"The midwife Sinead came in and she acted really quickly and that ultimately saved my life and Tommy's life." she said.

"Had she not have done that we would have both died because my placenta was coming away from the wall, so her quick actions saved me.

'She wasn't in her work environment, she was on a medical ward when she usually works in labour and delivery so to get me from the medical ward down to the theatre as quickly as she did saved me.

'Even though it was a traumatic experience for me and my family, it was a really positive experience of healthcare."

Sophie's case highlights just how critical our midwives are here, but as with all aspects of the health service, maternity services are coming under increasing pressure.

According to a new report published by the Royal College of Midwives, there is a critical need for a new maternity strategy as midwives deal with an increase in 'complicated' pregnancies and staff shortages.

Despite Sophie's positive experience, she knows how lucky she was.

"It was only the fact that they were fully staffed that day that there were enough people to save me and Tommy.

'Had that been a completely different day the outcome would be completely different, the fact that there were midwives there ultimately saved my life.

'Unless you reform the part of health care that's broken, these situations are going to end badly."

Sophie's concerns echo those of Karen Murray, the NI Director of the Royal College of Midwives.

"It's over a decade since the last review and things have changed significantly." she said.

"We really need that review of maternity services and a maternity strategy that takes services forward for the next five to ten years, and ensures that we have a first class service.

'I think midwives and other maternity professionals are striving to make sure women and their babies are very safe within our service.

'But we need to figure out how we retain that goodwill because as people don't see any hope in the future it's very difficult for them to remain motivated and to continue to give extra."

In response to the RCM's calls for an urgent maternity strategy, the Department of Health said it "remains committed to taking forward a regional review of maternity services and a revised Maternity Strategy.

'The Department is currently operating within a significant budget deficit and, pending the restoration of the NI Executive, is required to make decisions in relation to the work it can deliver within current resources."

The Department added that the overall timescale for a maternity strategy would "depend on the priorities of an incoming Minister and available resources within the Department and the HSC system.'

"In the meantime, the Department remains committed to working collaboratively with Trusts and professional bodies, including the RCM, to identify any priority actions arising from this programme of work and other reports that may be taken forward within available resources to improve services for mothers and babies and ensure that they remain safe and effective."

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