Recognition for birth op suffering.
ONE of the first representations I received on entering the Seanad was from a lady who had undergone a symphysiotomy many years earlier.
The terms symphysiotomy and pubiotomy were not overly familiar to me so I began a long road of learning and insight into the suffering and often unspoken pain women who had this procedure endured.
On that journey I have met many brave women who have related their struggles, pain and ongoing disability as a consequence of this operation.
Symphysiotomy is a surgical procedure carried out on pregnant women in complicated deliveries where the cartilage of the pubic symphysis is divided, resulting in the widening of the pelvis to allow childbirth.
Pubiotomy is where the pubic bone is severed to assist in the delivery . Symphysiotomies were carried out in Ireland from around 1920 until the early 80s - just a few years before I had my first baby - and appear to have been mostly carried out in training hospitals around the country.
They have been strongly linked to the Catholic training hospitals in particular and often as an alternative to Caesarean section as it did not limit the amount of children a woman could deliver unlike a C-section.
Indeed reports from survivors indicated they were encouraged to have another baby as soon as possible to help alleviate their pain and suffering. It is estimated 1,500 women in Ireland underwent symphysiotomy procedures with around 350 survivors in the present day.
Progress has been painfully slow for these women. While medical services have been provided for them including a liaison officer, medical cards, gynaecological assessment and counselling, the wait for a scheme acknowledging their dreadful ordeals has been long, arduous and frustrating.
Late last week details of the forthcoming payment programme pledged by the Government in July were announced, following the publication of the second part of the Walsh report and Judge Yvonne Murphy's report.
The awards will be in three levels: [euro]50,000 for women who underwent a symphysiotomy without suffering physical consequences, [euro]100,000 for those who have suffered from many disabilities including constant pain and [euro]150,000 for women who had the procedure after the birth.
This package, estimated at costing [euro]34million, is the long-awaited acknowledgement for many of these women of the pain and suffering they have endured.
I have continually reiterated the importance of dealing with this scheme as a matter of urgency in light of the fact that many of the survivors are elderly and suffering from ill health. For many of the women I have spoken with, while financial payment is welcome, it is the acknowledgement by the Government that what happened to them was wrong that matters most.
Over the course of the past three years and for many years prior to my time, many women have come to Leinster House to share the heartbreaking and often barbaric stories of not knowing what was happening to them, of some of the babies dying in the process, of the pain and suffering throughout their lives, not being able to walk properly and the incontinence.
What has struck me most since I have joined their cause is their dignity and courage.
An independent assessor, which was requested by the women , former High Court Judge Maureen Harding Clark, has been appointed to oversee the scheme.
I am pleased it has been designed to be simple, straightforward and nonadversarial, which I hope will minimise the stress in submitting applications.
The payment scheme starts today and application forms may be obtained by phoning the assessor's office on 016778554, writing to the assessor at Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme, P.O. Box 12487 Dublin 1. Alternatively, download the forms from the website www.paymentscheme.gov.ie or collect them from the Health Department, Hawkins House, Dublin 2.
What has struck me most is their dignity and courage