Maternity campaigner blasts ongoing hospital visitor restrictions

Maternity campaigner blasts ongoing hospital visitor restrictions

At Cork University Maternity Hospital, the visitor scheduling app remains out of action due to the cyberattack but visits are timetabled on paper. Picture: Larry Cummins

It is impossible to understand why visiting restrictions continue in maternity hospitals as vaccinations ramp up, a Cork maternity advocate has said.

“All of the senior HSE people have now said partners should be able to access maternity services as they did pre-pandemic, but the maternity hospitals are not implementing that, and you have to ask why at this stage,” said Linda Kelly, referring to comments by chief medical officer Tony Holohan and HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry.

Vaccinated partners of pregnant women are being told they cannot attend, and others are being told visiting is restricted due to the cyberattack on HSE data systems.

“Hospitals have been badly hit by the cyberattack, but it is a red herring as to how that relates to the partner visiting issue,” said Ms Kelly.

A HSE policy says partners can attend birth, but Ms Kelly said that “people are still going for D&C (dilation and curettage) all on their own after pregnancy loss". 

"There’s people attending for terminations on their own. They go to A&E in maternity hospitals, they are on their own.” 

Ms Kelly, one of the organisers of the #BetterMaternityCare campaign, said it is not clear why the easing of restrictions is so slow.

Symptom of bigger problem

“We need to talk about the (access to) labour issue, but let’s not forget it is a symptom of the bigger problem. And the bigger problem needs to be resolved,” she said.

She also criticised the lack of clarity from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Guidance issued on May 31 saying partners could attend with “a woman throughout the process of labour and childbirth” was changed on June 11.

It now reads that partners can attend “throughout the process of labour and childbirth during the time the woman is in the labour ward" and that access may be limited by "the needs of other patients for rest and privacy”. 

At Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH), the visitor scheduling app remains out of action due to the cyberattack but visits are timetabled on paper.

“I don’t understand the situation especially for scheduled visits and wards," said CUMH obstetrician Keelin O’Donoghue in a social media post. “Clinics are too crowded, sure, but could be managed/reorganised if we wanted. I also don’t understand continued daily temperature screening. Staff & patients vaccinated. No outbreaks. #COVID19 numbers (going down).” 

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