Maternity restrictions: 'People are devastated, it's distressing for people'

Maternity restrictions: 'People are devastated, it's distressing for people'

HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry is sending new advice to maternity hospitals today to assess allowing partners of pregnant women attend 12-week scans and caesarean sections.

Campaigners have hit out at the Government after meetings were called immediately to provide new guidelines for Fáilte Ireland, but not for maternity restrictions.

Pregnant people still report a "postcode lottery" regarding whether partners are allowed to attend appointments, with some women forced to miscarry alone.

HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry is sending new advice to maternity hospitals today to assess allowing partners of pregnant women attend 12-week scans and caesarean sections.

Dr Henry said the aim is to get back to pre-pandemic visiting rights.

However, he cautioned: “It is very hard to unravel and pretend the pandemic isn’t there because of the risk the virus presents to unvaccinated pregnant women.”

Both he and HSE CEO Paul Reid met  hospital group CEOs last Friday, and are assured the 19 maternity units are substantially in compliance with current guidance.

The group #BetterMaternityCare which campaign for a change in the restrictions acknowledged the changes for 12 week scans, but say many people will still be left alone in distressing situations and the speed in which the government was able to set out new guidelines for Failte Ireland in light of the Attorney General's advice that 200 people could gather outside, stands in stark contrast to how pregnant people have been treated.

A recent survey by #BetterMaternityCare found 76% of more than 1,900 respondents attended alone, as a partner wasn’t allowed to attend for the type of appointment they had, while 10% of respondents attended alone as a partner was refused access even though the visit was documented in HPSC guidelines.

'Absolutely confusing'

"Frustration and disappointment is an understatement," said Linda Kelly, a #BetterMaternityCare campaigner.

"I think the most frustrating part of it from a government perspective is that they are not willing to prioritise finding a solution to maternity restrictions, they can rush through legislation on indoor dining and change rules about parties but can't get decisionmakers to sort this."

Although guidelines were updated in June, campaigners say there are varying degrees of compliance depending on the hospital.

"It's still absolutely confusing and probably making it worse at the moment is the media interviews last week by HSE chiefs and TDs assuring people that restrictions are done and we have to tell people that is not the case for certain appointments. People are devastated, it's distressing for people," Ms Kelly said.

"The Taoiseach says he doesn't agree with restrictions and a postcode lottery, so where is the additional funding for home birth service which is over-run? Where is the CO2 monitors for antenatal waiting rooms?

Social Democrat TD Jennifer Whitmore: Beyond ridiculous that it is still the case that pregnant people don't have their partners with them when they need them. Picture: Collins
Social Democrat TD Jennifer Whitmore: Beyond ridiculous that it is still the case that pregnant people don't have their partners with them when they need them. Picture: Collins

"Things can be implemented quickly if something is a political priority like Zappone's party and the GAA.

"Women realise that no one wants to find a solution for them and they don't matter and this will be hugely problematic for them come the next election."

Jennifer Whitmore, Social Democrats TD says it is "beyond ridiculous that it is still the case that pregnant people don't have their partners with them when they need them."

"What's happened with the Merrion [Hotel bash for Katherine Zappone] demonstrated the ridiculous situation we're in where guidelines can be changed and the Government must prioritise fixing the maternity issue now."

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