Pregnant women and babies 'safe' during midwives' strike
Contingency plans have been put in place to ensure pregnant women and babies will be safe during a four-hour strike action by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), health chiefs have said.
A number of community midwife appointments and all elective Caesarean sections have been postponed during the strike, but the Health and Social Care Board said it was "satisfied" that all five health trusts have appropriate plans in place.
The RCM said it has worked alongside trusts to ensure there are sufficient levels of midwifery staff working throughout the industrial action.
Urgent and emergency examinations and procedures will also be carried out in all trusts.
The RCM met representatives of the Health Department on Tuesday as part of last-ditch talks ahead of the strike. Breedagh Hughes, director of the RCM in Northern Ireland, said last night they had not received any response.
The four-hour walkout over a pay dispute will end at midday. Further industrial action is planned between May 1 and 7.
The Society of Radiographers in Northern Ireland will also be striking for four hours.
Members of the RCM recently voted by 9-1 to strike - the first such vote in the college's 134-year history.
The action follows the Executive's rejection of the independent NHS Pay Review Body's recommendation of a 1% pay rise last year and no announcement this year for health and social care (HSC) staff in Northern Ireland.
The RCM insisted that the walkout will not put women and babies at risk and essential services will be maintained.
In a statement, the HSC Board spokeswoman said: "We are confident the executive director of nursing in each trust and heads of midwifery have been working closely with the Royal College of Midwives to ensure mothers and babies have access to the services they need."
In the Western Trust all elective Caesarean sections have been postponed and the majority of community midwife antenatal clinics have been postponed.
A spokeswoman for the South Eastern Health Trust said some routine appointments and non-urgent investigations had been postponed but labouring and assessment services were normal
The Belfast Trust said: "Women who need to see a midwife or think they might be in labour should come to the hospital as normal where a full team on duty look after them."