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In 2016, some 11 babies were admitted and treated, while the previous year it was 15 babies, and in 2014 it was 14 babies. A figure for the number of babies admitted in 2017 is not yet available.
Meanwhile, there were 108 referrals to the Rotunda’s Drug Liaison Midwife in 2016, which represented a 9.7 per cent increase from 2015, when there were 99 referrals. In 2014, there were 106 such referrals.
The hospital’s annual report for 2016 noted that “while there are excellent inpatient stabilisation services for pregnant women with opiate addiction, it is a challenge to provide similar settings for women with alcohol addiction”.
Inpatient stabilisation units for women with opiate addiction are based in St Michael’s Ward, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, and Cuan Dara Detoxification Unit, Cherry Orchard Hospital, Dublin. Both of these units cater for women who are being treated for an opiate addiction. Women with alcohol dependence and women who present with tablet addictions who are not on a methadone maintenance programme are unable to avail of these facilities at present.
Mr Justin Gleeson, Drug Liaison Midwife at the Rotunda, said: “This issue remains a major concern for the multidisciplinary team at the Rotunda Hospital’s DOVE Clinic, especially when we are seeing more women presenting with primary alcoholism and tablet misuse.”
On how the homeless crisis is impacting on clinical care for women with addiction issues presenting to the Rotunda, Mr Gleeson said: “The homeless crisis has had a huge effect on women trying to achieve and maintain drug stability. Many women are required to leave their hostel at 9am to walk the streets until evening.
“Women often cite this nomadic lifestyle as being a huge barrier to addressing their drug-using behaviour, only to return in the evening to an environment where drug and alcohol misuse is rife. A large proportion of women attending the DOVE Clinic with addiction issues are currently on the homeless register and our medical social worker works closely with the homeless agencies to help address many of the complex issues these women face during their pregnancies.”