Cork obstetrician defends maternity restrictions on safety grounds

Professor John Higgins of Cork University Maternity Hospital said the pandemic had hit the hospital 'in waves' and they were still dealing with confirmed cases.
Cork obstetrician defends maternity restrictions on safety grounds

Cork University Maternity Hospital. File Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The clinical director for Ireland South Women and Infants Directorate has defended restrictions on partners attending antenatal appointments and said pregnant women were still being admitted to hospital with Covid-19.

Professor John Higgins, an obstetrician and gynaecologist based at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH), told RTÉ Radio’s News at One that efforts were being made to allow partners to accompany pregnant women to scans and appointments and during labour.

Access had been restricted because of Covid-19, he explained, but the position was that women were still presenting at maternity units where they were tested and found to be positive for the virus.

"We’ve had patients testing positive. If anyone comes into the hospital, unexpectedly or planned, we test them," he said.

We’ve been dealing with cases where a woman tested positive, who we then have to care for, with their baby."

Prof Higgins said that earlier in the pandemic such cases were not serious, but there was a growing concern about the connection between Covid-19 and stillbirths. 

Clinical director for Ireland South Women and Infants Directorate, Prof John Higgins. File Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Clinical director for Ireland South Women and Infants Directorate, Prof John Higgins. File Picture: Eddie O'Hare

We’ve had six or seven stillbirths and pregnancy losses in the country from Covid-19. That’s why units are cautious." 

He said in recent weeks, a new electronic system allowing partners to come in and visit the hospital at allotted times of one or two hours had been introduced and that a review of this was held every week. 

"Every week this has been opening up further and further,” he said. 

He said visitation times in CUMH and in Waterford and Kerry would be extended this week.

Prof Higgins said the pandemic had hit CUMH "in waves" and the hospital was still dealing with confirmed cases. 

"Since Monday, our work has been dominated by Covid-19. 

"But our staff are completely dedicated to the mother, her partner and the whole experience," he said.

He said it had been a “big disappointment” that the ongoing circulation of Covid-19 meant maternity units could not operate as normal. 

Prof Higgins acknowledged that partners still could not attend the first scan, but said in cases where they suspected there may be a problem there was a “pass” system where partners could attend and support.

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