ONE quarter of all births at University Maternity Hospital Limerick last year were to mothers who opted to pay for private care, new figures have revealed.
Of 4,314 babies delivered at the Ennis Road hospital, 24 per cent, or more than 1,000 were delivered under private obstetric care.
The figure compares to 17 per cent of all deliveries in Cork University Hospital being to patients in private care and one in ten births at University Hospital Kerry in Tralee.
The figures were revealed in light of a debate about whether private care should be ended in public and voluntary hospitals.
The Association for Improvements in Maternity Services (AIMS) Ireland, is calling for an open debate on the matter.
The call comes following Cabinet approval of the phasing out of such private care from hospitals by 2025, including obstetric care.
In an article in the Irish Examiner this week, AIMS spokeswoman Krysia Lynch said the issue is one which will affect women and hospitals and a new model needs to be created.
While Ms Lynch said that the phasing out is to be welcomed, “however we would like to see new mechanisms for the delivery of private obstetric care and private midwifery care.
“In the same way. we can look at public birthing centres for low-risk care. We need to review all of this.”
Ms Lynch said there are many reasons why women might choose private care, including advance knowledge of a Caesarian delivery or other complications, including perinatal mental health reason.
“There are a lot of women who are at elevated risk and sign up for private obstetric care. They perhaps want their obstetrician to liaise with other consultants in an acute hospital.”