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ADC - National policy for PHN care of new mothers urgently needed

There are different postnatal care practices between regions and even within regions across the country, which is unsatisfactory for public health nurse members as it creates uncertainty, stress and could potentially create a difficult legal situation.

This was according to Mary Tully, a public health nurse from the Cavan Branch who spoke on a motion calling on the HSE to establish a national standardisation of the postnatal care of mother and baby.

“What the motion seeks is that the HSE develops national norms and standardised practices in terms of the number of visits, consultations, screenings and documentation. Of course, this would require partnership with the INMO throughout the process,” said Ms Tully.

The motion also called for the lifting of the moratorium on recruitment of public health nurses (PHNs).

“Nationally, we do not have an adequate complement of PHNs to provide even the most basic service. The recommended rate of PHNs per head of population is one to 2,500 and at present we do not come anywhere near this number. As professionals we are not happy with aspiring to a basic service, we want to achieve excellence and quality. With a dire shortage of PHNs this cannot be achieved. We have a stated commitment to the development of primary care and yet we do not have the nurses on the ground to deliver it,” she said.

Patricia Marteinsson, chairperson of the PHN Section, also spoke in support of the motion. Addressing the changes in practice that have affected PHNs she said:

“Ten years ago I used to see mothers on day four or five, now some of them are coming home on day one by choice if they have had a normal birth, and sometimes you see them on day two. So you have all sorts of other issues to deal with, including supporting breastfeeding.

“We need a national policy for first visits to mothers as my colleague said. There is such a wide variety of practice right across the country and what you do in Cork city and county used to differ depending on when the PHN was trained.

“What would a colleague in another part of the country do? What is the norm? With that in mind I would ask the INMO to liaise with the HSE and chief nursing officer to look at all the documentation that is in use in the community and streamline it, because there are so many charts and pieces of paper for this, that and the other, that I echo what my colleague said about documentation.”

The motion was passed unanimously.

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