Healthcare reform: Maternity service provision in Ireland
The objective of this article is to explore recent and proposed future developments in maternity service provision in Ireland in the context of health policy reform. Ireland is experiencing an unprecedented demand for maternity services with in excess of 75,000 births in 2009, the highest since the 1970s when Ireland experienced a 'baby boom'. A further 10% rise is projected for 2010. This demographic change has placed increased demands on an already over-stretched maternity service. Despite more than a decade of economic success the health service has remained in constant crisis with many commentators arguing it has worsened rather than improved since the reform process was instigated in 2001. Reform of maternity services has begun and this article presents two case studies to demonstrate the regional variations in maternity provision in a country which has a national health service and a national Maternity and Infant Care Scheme. It shows what developments have occurred and what direction maternity services are likely to go in the next decade. The two regions under scrutiny are the North East Health Services Executive (NEHSE) and the Greater Dublin Area (GDA). The former illustrates important developments which have occurred in the NEHSE as a result of the Maternity Services Task Force (2002-2010) and argues that there are important learning outcomes not only for the GDA which is the subject of the latter case study but also for the development of maternity services nationally.