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Lack of incubator in Belfast sees woman sent to Dublin hospital

A woman in labour was rushed to a Dublin hospital because there were no incubators in Northern Ireland for her premature baby.

The mother-to-be was taken over 100 miles by ambulance from the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Belfast to the National Maternity Hospital after she went into labour two months early.

She had to travel outside Northern Ireland because the unborn infant required specialist treatment not available here at that time.

Deputy chair of the Stormont health committee Jim Wells has demanded an investigation into the incident and said it is unacceptable that the NHS was unable to provide the service required.

"I find it utterly unbelievable they couldn't find one incubator in the whole of Northern Ireland for this little baby," he said. "The number of births expected at any one time is fairly easy to predict and I don't understand why, even when a baby comes along prematurely, they do not have sufficient capacity.

"If another baby had also required an incubator we would have had two ambulances taking patients to Dublin, so we must ensure this never happens again."

A spokesman from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Trust confirmed a crew transferred a patient to a hospital in the Republic at the weekend.

He said: "We took a patient from the Royal Maternity Hospital to the National Maternity Hospital, leaving at 7.40am."

The Belfast Telegraph asked the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust to explain why the transfer occurred, but it said it could not comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality.

A spokeswoman from the trust said: "Our primary concern is to ensure the safety of mothers and babies.

"The number of available neonatal cots in Northern Ireland can vary on a daily basis and we work closely with colleagues in other trusts to manage our neonatal cots as part of a network."

There are at least 88 neonatal cot spaces across Northern Ireland which cater for babies who require a mixture of intensive care, high dependency and special care treatment. When a trust does not have the capacity for a baby they make contact with other trusts around Northern Ireland and organise for a transfer to take place.

Belfast Telegraph