Calls have been made for a roadmap for the easing of restrictions on visiting and accompaniment at maternity hospitals.
The calls come after Dublin's Rotunda Hospital said that it was not in a position to ease restrictions due to low uptake of vaccines by pregnant women and their partners.
The Master of the Rotunda maternity hospital, Professor Fergal Malone told RTÉ radio that 60% of patients and partners “walking around the Rotunda hospital” were not vaccinated which meant that restrictions could not be lifted.
He said that, this week, only 39% of expectant mothers were vaccinated, and only 41% of their partners were fully vaccinated, Prof Malone said:
Labour leader and health spokesperson Alan Kelly said that the Rotunda's claim "does not hold up".
"More and more people are vaccinated and this has not been an issue raised by any other maternity hospital," he said.
"What’s missing is a clear and consistent approach to this and a pathway to better maternity care from Government. We need to look at a range of options to get partners into maternity hospitals at all stages of pregnancy. This should include vaccine certs and antigen testing.
“Some women have had to go through devastating and deeply traumatic experiences alone. It’s unfair when we have ways to resolve it. The government can’t keep washing their hands of this,” Mr Kelly said.
The Midwives Association of Ireland echoed that call, saying that a further ease of visiting restrictions would offer “respectful and dignified care” to pregnant women.
Cork University Maternity Hospital yesterday defended their approach to the visiting restrictions as being “in the interest of patient and public safety”.
“We understand how difficult this may be and we will be there to support you. We thank you for your understanding,” the hospital said.
In a separate video message shared by the hospital, midwife Roisin O’Connor said: “We understand that you must be quite worried that your partner can’t be with you during the early stages of labour. Please be assured that us, as midwives, will be with you every step of the way.”
Partners can currently attend seven parts of the pregnancy journey. They can also attend when “the visit is likely to be associated with particular stress or to involve communication of particular emotional significance".
They can attend early pregnancy scans, the 12-week booking scan, the 20-week anomaly scan, labour from established labour onwards and for inpatient visiting of two hours daily. Partners are welcome in the high-dependency and neonatal units.
Visits can be booked manually or through the Visitor Scheduling App which is being returned to use following the cyberattack on the HSE.