Bereavement suite will be 'huge step forward’

A business case was approved at a meeting of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust board on Thursday for a bereavement suite in the maternity unit at Antrim Hospital.

Speaking at the meeting, Suzanne Pullins, executive director of Nursing, Midwifery and allied Health Professionals, said that the development was being planned to provide a dedicated facility adjacent to the delivery suite.

She told the board it is “very challenging for parents who have a neo-natal loss or stillbirth to use one of the delivery rooms which are not soundproof”.

She asked to be able to develop a bereavement room adjacent to the birthing suite “to help us to have a more person-centred experience at times of loss”.

Antrim Area Hospital.
Antrim Area Hospital.
Antrim Area Hospital.

The Sands NI charity says more than three babies a week are stillborn or die in the first four weeks of life in Northern Ireland. Sands supports all bereaved parents who have lost their babies before, during or shortly after birth.

Co-ordinator Steven Guy has described the development as “a huge step forward”. He said the charity has a five-year plan to help fund Sands’ bereavement suites in hospitals across Northern Ireland.

A Sands’ suite opened in Altnagelvin Hospital, in Londonderry, in 2017. Others have since opened at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry, with another to be completed at Craigavon Hospital this spring.

Huge Step

“If and when this suite at Antrim is completed, then every hospital in Northern Ireland will have a dedicated bereavement suite. That is a huge step forward,” said Steven.

In addition, the province’s hospitals have seven bereavement midwives.

“It is all going the right way,” he added.

However, he said that midwifery staff need training on an ongoing basis in bereavement care.

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“It is something we have been working quietly with the hospitals on.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter