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Hospitals told to allow wider access to maternity partners during pregnancy care

The HSE is altering the visiting policy for partners during maternity care.

Image: Shutterstock/Serhii Bobyk

THE HSE IS telling hospitals to further ease restrictions on partners attending maternity care and appointments.

Limitations on maternity partners’ access to hospitals should be lifted under specific circumstances, HSE Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry said this afternoon.

These include early pregnancy assessment units, antenatal visits for women with high-risk pregnancies, and emergency visits in late pregnancy.

At a press briefing today, Henry said that the HSE is altering the visiting policy and asking them [hospitals] and requiring them to open up these areas of visiting”.

“Early pregnancy assessment units, that’s where women might go for a scan for an emergency, for emergency early pregnancy condition, for example,” Henry said.

“Secondly for those people who have high-risk pregnancies who go to antenatal visits, because their particular anxieties, they may have blood pressure problems, or may have previous pregnancy problems are so on, and indeed, it’s particularly important for them to be accompanied by a partner,” he said.

“And thirdly, emergency presentations in late trimester – again, an area where there’s frequently, understandably, huge anxiety.”

Guidance issued at the end of April said that partners could attend 20-week scans and other appointments if deemed necessary.

However, there are still some restrictions being enforced in maternity hospitals, including partners not being permitted in the room during early labour until their partner is four centimetres dilated.

Any partners who have possible symptoms of Covid-19 will still not be permitted in the maternity hospitals.

“Safety is so important here. Safety means that people with symptoms suggestive of Covid – there’s no question of such people going into a hospital or healthcare setting because of the risks that entails,” Henry said.

“The other requirement of course is we’re not back in the pre-pandemic setting from the point of view of infection prevention control. We’re still in an era where we’re trying to prevent transmission of a virus, where there’s now emerging variants, they’re even more transmissible,” he said.

“So I’d ask everybody as we travel this journey, balancing the rights and needs of women and their partners with safety, that we acknowledge and we adhere to all those requirements that hospitals have put in place to keep women and to keep pregnancy safe.”

Linda Kelly, a campaigner for maternity care and a director at Fórsa, said on Newstalk this afternoon that the health service still has a distance to go to resolve access concerns for partners.

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“The situation is now drastically different with all staff vaccinated, with lots of pregnant women vaccinated, with lots of partners now vaccinated,” Kelly said.

“And yet we can’t seem to get this right and it’s baffling at this stage,” she said.

In a statement to The Journal, the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin said it is following the guidelines issued by the HSE and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

“The Rotunda Hospital has been one of the most progressive hospitals throughout the pandemic with regards to Covid restrictions, however the unique infrastructural challenges of the Rotunda’s hospital buildings have to be taken into consideration to ensure the safety of patients and staff,” a spokesperson for the Rotunda said.

“Restrictions are reviewed on a weekly basis and are amended to maximise patient safety in light of changes in Covid status.”

Current restrictions at the hospital allow one nominated companion at labour and birth once the pregnant person has been admitted to a delivery suite or theatre and to their 20-22 week scan.

“Bereavement and unexpected complications are dealt with compassionately and we adapt restrictions in these situations,” they said.

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