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Abortion legislation training programme delayed — HSE

Last week, a HSE spokesperson told MI the training programme on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013 “continues to be a work in progress, as there was an unexpected delay due to unforeseen absence from work from two leads in this area”.

The training programme was recommended in March 2014 by the independent committee that devised a guidance document for healthcare professionals on the legislation. The Act was commenced into law in January 2014, and the healthcare professionals guidance document was published in September 2014.

In correspondence obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, the committee chair Dr Declan Bedford informed the Department’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan of the need for training on the clinical and operational requirements of the Act, particularly “specific training for psychiatrists on women’s health and obstetric issues”.

In June 2014, HSE Director General Mr Tony O’Brien informed Dr Holohan that he had “engaged with” the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and it was agreed a training programme would be developed by the College and the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, RCPI, with HSE support.

Last week, a HSE spokesperson informed MI it envisages that the training programme “will be made available to all psychiatrists and obstetricians who require it and has committed to funding same”. The funding provision would not be known until the programme had been completed and delivered, added the spokesperson. A spokesperson for the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists informed MI that a “short course” is in development.

Dr John Hillery, Director of Communications and Public Education at the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, told MI it had been hoped to finalise the programme this month. However, “unfortunate events” impacting on key people meant this timeline would be extended. He added that the situation illustrated the shortage of specialists.

In June, the first annual report on the Act’s operation showed that 26 terminations were carried out in 2014. Fourteen arose from a risk to the life of the mother from physical illness, three from a risk to the life of the mother from suicide, and nine from a risk to the life of the mother from emergencies arising from physical illness.

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