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Donnelly says Dept 'doing everything it can' on maternity restrictions after woman labours in car park

Breege O’Connor endured the majority of the late stages of her labour period in a car outside the Coombe on Sunday.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

AN INCIDENT WHERE a woman went through labour in a car park outside a maternity hospital due to Covid-19 restrictions has led to calls for the Minister for Health to intervene.

Breege O’Connor endured the majority of the late stages of her labour period in a car outside the Coombe on Sunday because coronavirus restrictions at maternity facilities meant her partner was not allowed to accompany her into the hospital.

Writing for The Journal Voices column today, Breege recounted breathing her intense contractions into her husband’s chest in a quiet part of the car park: “Trying as best I could to stifle any cries for fear security might not take kindly to it and I’d be forced back inside alone.”

The latest measures in place at the Coombe mean partners ‘must return to their vehicle’ once the woman is checked into the hospital and they cannot be admitted again until she enters the labour ward. 

O’Connor subsequently gave birth to a baby boy, her fourth child, at 6am on Monday morning.

Linda Kelly, spokesperson for the #BetterMaternityCare campaign, called on Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to intervene and relax the coronavirus restrictions at maternity hospitals.

“It’s truly appalling that at this stage of the pandemic, this is the choice facing women and their family,” Kelly said.

“It is imperative now that Steven Donnelly, the Minister for Health, intervenes in this situation.

“This is what the HSE national guidelines sanction, we don’t think it’s good enough anymore, and ‘Better Maternity Care’ are calling on the Minister to make sure that no other woman faces this choice,” Kelly concluded.

Minister Donnelly said this afternoon that his department is “doing absolutely everything we can” to resolve the “really upsetting situation”.

Donnelly said the latest report he has indicates that Ireland’s 19 maternity hospitals are fully compliant with the guidelines in place around maternity hospitals. 

The health minister added that he has instructed the HSE to make an avenue available for people to report situations where they are being denied access that is covered in the guidelines.

“The HSE has assured me that they have rigorous oversight and monitoring on this,” Donnelly added.

The matter was raised in the Seanad by Regina Doherty today. The Fine Gael Senator  called on the management of Ireland’s 19 maternity hospitals to relax the coronavirus restrictions.

“It is absolutely not okay for any woman – at any stage of her labour period – to be having it, and to be suffering pain, in a car park of any hospital in this country.

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“I absolutely think it’s an unfit service, it’s reprehensible and – I’d go so far as to say – it’s inhumane, that we would ask any woman to make a choice between coming into the hospital on her own, or staying in a car park to go through labour, in order to be with her partner,” Doherty said.

A spokesperson for the Coombe said they cannot comment on individual cases. 

With reporting from Laura Byrne and Christina Finn.

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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