A garden of serenity in memory of all pregnancy losses and stillborn infants was officially opened this week in the grounds of St Bernard’s Hospital.
In the garden, there are marble plinths where small plaques can be attached with the details of those babies lost after 20 weeks gestation.
“We thought long and hard on how to the best way to immortalise the tragic circumstances and we came to the conclusion a serenity garden would be a beautiful monument to remember,” said Mr Costa, the Minister for Health at the opening.
“This will be a place where mothers and fathers who have suffered a loss may be able to come in their own time with serenity, in calm and in peace to reflect on those very sad moments,” he added.
Joining him was Dr John Cortes, the acting Chief Minister and former Minister for Health and GHA Clinical Nurse Manager Fiona McCoubrey.
The inauguration was one that was close to Dr Cortes’s heart, “as a father who went through this [the loss of a baby] way back in 1989, it is so difficult for a father as he has got to show strength and support to the mother but not look cold.”
“I remember when this happened and showing my wife strength she sometimes wondered if I had felt the loss and I had, it is very very difficult for a father, I can tell you that through personal experience,” he added.
The GHA altogether announced a series of improvements to the care of women using Maternity services.
After a consultation with the community and staff, it was identified that there was a greater need for a service for women who suffered miscarriage and pregnancy loss and the GHA enacted a programme of works, which culminated in the development of a new service.
There is also a designated private area within the maternity unit which has been refurbished to allow women to receive appropriate investigation and care and holistic support during these difficult emotional times.
“GHA’s midwives have received additional training in the management of miscarriage and pregnancy loss. New guidelines, including those for the Accident and Emergency Department, have been developed to improve care. In addition, specialist neonatal pathologists from St Georges Hospital London will support the service. “
Comprehensive local information has also been developed for women and their partners, after consultation with women who have experienced such loss. This will be available in written form and is accessible on the GHA website. Further, there is a dedicated book of remembrance for all early pregnancy losses before 20 weeks in the early pregnancy unit. Women and their partners will be able, if they wish, to acknowledge their loss in this special book of remembrance.
Mr Costa credited Ms McCoubrey for his education on the importance of maternity services in the GHA and how far it had come under Dr Cortes.
“In the first place I think it is important to thank the nurses and our consultants who are always at the front line in providing maternity services,” he said.
“We think there can be nothing more beautiful than the start of a new life and that moment when parents are told that they are pregnant and they are looking forward to and expectant to start a family,” he added.
He noted that all GHA frontline staff from maternity to Accident and Emergency is trained “in the very tragic circumstances to deal with parents who have unfortunately suffered a very traumatic loss.”
Local businessman and father Bryan Zammit was thanked during the speeches for his donation which provided for furniture to kit out a room in Maternity Services for parents going through a loss or are having concerns about their pregnancy. The aim of the room is to give parents a place to go that is not clinical.
Ms McCoubrey praised all those involved especially the midwives “although I am the face of Maternity Services, they are the core.”