Northern Ireland

Water leaked in room during birth at Royal Maternity Hospital

A woman whose granddaughter was born while water leaked from a roof in the delivery suite, has said conditions at the Royal Jubilee Maternity are antiquated and not fit for purpose.

Janice Austin told the BBC she was shocked by what was unfolding in front of her.

She said water from the ceiling leaked down the wall and formed a puddle on the floor.

Midwives used disposable sheets to try to dry it up.

"We were in the delivery room and my daughter was progressing in labour and I was standing at her side," she said.

"Two midwives were present and the next thing one of them said 'oh my God look at that, where's that water coming from?'

"She lifted disposable sheets and threw them on the floor because at this stage it was actually running down the wall."

Image caption The leaking water stained the wall in the room

Mrs Austin, who lives in west Belfast, said the midwives told her they were glad the public were witnessing at first hand the state of the building.

"The other midwife said: 'You're seeing first hand the conditions that we're working in'," she said

"It was running continually down from the ceiling onto the wall and there was just a massive puddle forming on the floor, which was being gathered up by the sheet."

Pictures taken on a mobile phone show brown stained walls as a result of rain water being caught in a rusty curtain hook on the wall.

Mrs Austin said in between monitoring her daughter, the midwives were on their hands and knees attempting to remove water from the floor.

"It was unbelievable and hardly hygienic," she said.

"The midwives were rushing between delivery rooms and due to it being so busy, they were unable to close the delivery suite as it was needed for another woman who was being brought in shortly after my daughter - ridiculous in this day and age."

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust confirmed to the BBC that repairs were completed in delivery suite Room 4 on 15 February - 11 days after Mrs Austin's daughter gave birth.

Image caption Breedagh Hughes of the RCM said no woman should have to deliver in such conditions

The trust said while they believe it was still usable, it wasn't used while the repair work was being completed.

"It is never acceptable for any woman to deliver in those conditions," the trust's Liz Bannon said.

"This was a particular issue that happened on a particular day which has been resolved, but it was very unpleasant I'm sure for the family and the woman.

"I would apologise sincerely if that was the case, because it's not our standard."

Under the remit of the Pseudomonas investigation, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) is inspecting the hospital's neo-natal unit.

The chair of the assembly health committee, Sue Ramsey, said that inspection should go further.

"The inspectors need to go into maternity and ensure that maternity is up to standard - to clinical standard - and then follow through on that and I would call on the inspectors to go in and have a look at this," she said.

The director of the Royal College of Midwives, Breedagh Hughes, said no woman should have to deliver their baby in such unacceptable conditions.

"I think the building is substandard, I think the trust are doing what they can, but it's a little bit like the boy with his finger in the dyke - they literally fix one leak and another one springs somewhere else.

The maternity unit at the Royal Jubilee Hospital is over 100 years old.

When the Jubilee maternity was transferred from the City Hospital to the Royal in 2000, it was on the basis that a new mother and baby hospital would be built.

That was 12 years ago. Ms Hughes said they have been campaigning for almost 20 years for new facilities.

"The women of Belfast were promised a new purpose built maternity unit in 2000 when the Jubilee and the Royal Maternity hospitals merged.

"We are now 12 years past that date and another two or three to go before the new unit, which has been promised for such a long time, actually opens.

Image caption Liz Bannon apologised over the incident

"In the mean-time I think it is a case of sticking a sticking plaster on."

At the height of the Pseudomonas crisis, in which three babies died at the Royal neo-natal unit, the BBC asked the Belfast Health Trust if there were concerns about leaks in the roof, both in the maternity and neo-natal areas.

Health professionals said they were not aware of problems in the roofing areas but checks were being carried out.

It has now emerged that within the Regional Fertility Clinic, which is adjacent to the Royal Jubilee Maternity and three floors below the neo-natal unit, some members of staff were complaining about a smell of damp.

The BBC contacted the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) about the the ongoing inspection of the neo-natal unit.

"RQIA will not be making any further comment on the review until we publish our findings," it said.

"However, I can confirm that the review visits have commenced.

"We will be reporting our initial findings, which will be informed by review visits, to the minister at the end of March, with the final report going to the minister in late May."

More on this story