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Maternity services

HSE to allow partners of pregnant women to attend 20-week scan

Correspondence from women to the Department of Health have shown the distress the Covid-19 restriction caused.

THE HSE WILL allow the partners of pregnant women to attend their 20-week maternity scans from this week, it has been confirmed.

Under Covid-19 restrictions, the partners of pregnant women have not been allowed to attend the 20-week scans in hospitals.

But in a statement, the HSE now says partners will be re-classified as ‘essential companions’ to allow them to attend scans from this week. 

The health service said it had changed the classification of partners as a result of ongoing low Covid-19 infection rates in maternity services.

“Similar arrangements to those now being recommended have been in place at a number of hospitals on an ad-hoc basis,” a spokesperson said.

“This re-classification is to ensure a consistent service is provided to expectant mothers and their partners across our maternity units.”

The HSE also acknowledged that the inability for partners to attend scans has been distressing for women who receive bad news at scans.

However, the health service added that the public health teams would undertake a public health risk assessment when Covid-19 cases occur in maternity units, warning that this could lead to additional restrictions being re-implemented.

The “harrowing” experiences of pregnant women who have had to attend scans alone are detailed in correspondence to the Minister for Health and other government figures.

Documents released to Meath TD Peadar Tóibín under the Freedom of Information Act outline some of their concerns about attending scans without their partners.

A letter sent to Taoiseach Micheál Martin was forwarded on to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on 30 September, where the Taoiseach asked his party colleague if the “points raised could be examined” and if he could “advise me [Martin] of the position”. 

The letter sent to the Taoiseach was from a woman who said she was left “exasperated” by the hospital restrictions after going through the “heartbreaking, gut-wrenching” event of a missed miscarriage at 8 weeks. 

Can you please tell me why I am able to eat a meal with women I have not seen in months, but my husband who I live with is not allowed to be there when I am told the most devastating news that a pregnant woman can hear?

In correspondence sent to former Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, a woman retold the story of “one of the most upsetting times in my life to date” after she experienced a bleed  eight weeks into her pregnancy and was not allowed to have her partner with her.

Her partner waited in the car park of the hospital and was “terribly distraught” at not being able to attend the appointment and with his partner.

“Fathers need to be in a position to be able to support their partners not through a phone or sitting in a hospital car park,” she said.

Another woman wrote that she was pregnant with twins and has had four scans, of which her husband hasn’t been able to attend any of them.

The woman wrote that the ‘blanket ban’ on partners visiting maternity hospitals was “cruel” and another example of “the health service failing women badly”.

With reporting from Stephen McDermott.

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