All maternity hospitals to allow partners to accompany pregnant women says Dr Henry

All maternity hospitals to allow partners to accompany pregnant women says Dr Henry

A protest over maternity restrictions, staged at Cork University Maternity Hospital in December 2020. The Taoiseach has urged all hospitals to remove restrictions. Included are Siobhán O'Donoghue, director, Uplift; Linda Kelly, Holly de Burgh, Julie Coakley and Cllr John Maher who is also supporting the petition. File picture: Denis Minihane.

The HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry has said that all of the country’s 19 maternity units will be fully compliant in the coming week with regard to allowing partners to accompany pregnant women for routine visits.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Dr Henry acknowledged that there had been problems, particularly around infrastructure in some of the units.

Dr Henry said that the latest guidelines would be in place in all units within a week.

“Those four criteria – neo-natal unit, the presence of partners during labour in the labour ward, the anomaly scan, visits to post-natal wards – all units are compliant with those.

“The further easing that took place at the end of June – the early pregnancy assessment units, routine visits for women with high-risk pregnancy and emergency presentations in late gestation – the great majority are compliant with those.” 

Dr Henry said that the HSE would ensure that all 19 units were fully compliant in the coming week.

The announcement follows comments from the Taoiseach who said it is "unacceptable at this stage" that the partners of expectant mothers continue to be restricted from maternity hospitals.

Seven of the country's maternity units are still not in compliance with HSE advice on easing Covid-19 restrictions that was issued more than a month ago.

Asked about continued restrictions, Mr Martin said: "Given the level of vaccinations and given where we are, there shouldn't be those restrictions on partners of mothers in maternity hospitals across the country, or indeed for scans."

HSE guidelines

While the HSE has issued guidelines to each of the 19 maternity hospitals across the country, it is up to each unit to adopt these measures.

The latest guidance was provided on June 23, and included the recommendation around the easing of restrictions for early pregnancy assessment units, for routine visits for when a woman was considered to have a higher risk pregnancy, and for emergency presentations for late gestation.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said: "We've analysed, we've followed up, in those three areas the great majority of hospitals are fully compliant and are partially compliant in some isolated cases particularly with high risk pregnancies.

"There were some differences between the units in terms of infrastructure, in terms of how they responded and how quickly they responded but the general trend is towards full compliance."

While Dr Henry said the HSE is working with units that are only partially compliant, he defended hospitals, stating the same level of risk does not apply to the reopening of hospitality or foreign travel.

"I wouldn't equate a restaurant with a healthcare facility. The risk Delta poses in a healthcare facility is much more considerable than the risk of Delta or a variant or any version of Covid in a restaurant or plane or elsewhere," he told RTÉ's Drivetime.

He said he expected to see full compliance in the "coming week or two".

Massive strain on families

Campaigners have said the restrictions have put massive strain on families and mothers who have been delivered bad news alone.

Maternity care campaigner Linda Kelly said: "Our society is opening up in every aspect now and the vaccine rollout is very successful. It's time to end all restrictions on partners in maternity hospitals."

She pointed to University Hospital Galway, which has eased all restrictions "very successfully and very safely" in recent weeks and called on the HSE to implement the same approach countrywide.

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