Iceland’s health minister says there are no plans to increase the number of birthing facilities in the country again, after the number was reduced from 14 to ten over the last decade.
Of those ten, eight are dedicated maternity wards; though it is not always possible to guarantee women they will be able to give birth at all of them.
When pregnancies are assessed to be high risk, for example, mothers-to-be are usually sent to Landspítali in Reykjavík or to Akureyri Hospital, RÚV reports. The minister’s statement came in response to a question from Progressive Party MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir.
There are too few births at the smaller maternity wards for there to be enough specially trained staff who regularly update their skills, the minister contends. The size of Iceland and the low population density mean it is difficult, if not impossible, to ensure that all units can always offer specialist procedures, such as emergency caesarian sections.
There were 22,880 births in Iceland between 2009 and 2013—72 percent of which took place at Landspítali, or 16,655.
The parliamentary question asked whether women and their families who travel away from home to give birth should be provided apartments near the maternity ward. The minister’s answer says that developments over the last decade mean that most women spend less than 36 hours in hospital after giving birth and that the baby’s father and siblings are allowed to stay with the mother at the maternity unit; though it is planned to start building an accommodation block at Landspítali this year.