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HSE updating guidance to make clear partners can be present 'right throughout labour and birth'

Restrictions remain in place in certain hospitals, however.

Image: Shutterstock

THE HSE IS updating its guidance for maternity units to make it clear that partners are permitted to be present through labour and birth, including when women are induced, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said.  

There has been ongoing campaign over the past number of months to have restrictions at maternity units lifted.

Donnelly yesterday said each maternity unit in Ireland was being contacted to inform them of the guidance on the lifting of maternity restrictions in hospitals nationwide. 

In guidance issued on 30 April, the HSE advises allowing partners to accompany a woman during labour and childbirth. Partners should also be permitted to attend the 20-week scan and other appointments if deemed necessary. 

However, maternity hospitals and units set individual restrictions, so exclusions on partners attending scans and the early stages of labour have remained in place in some hospitals. 

In a tweet this afternoon, Donnelly confirmed that an assessment from the HSE yesterday found that 14 of Ireland’s 19 maternity units are “fully compliant” with national policy regarding the 20-week scan, birth and neonatal. 

Donnelly said the five units that are not compliant “all have at least issues with daily visitation and all five are part of a general hospital, rather than being a standalone maternity unit”. 

These will be engaged with further by the HSE to work through solutions, he said. 

The health minister noted that in one hospital where there is an issue with partners attending scans due to space constraints, “the scanner is being moved so that partners can be permitted from next week”. 

“The HSE is updating guidance again to make it very clear to maternity units that partners are to be present right throughout labour and birth – and that includes women who are induced,” Donnelly said. 

Clarifying this further, HSE Chief Clinic Officer Dr Colm Henry said today that when HSE guidance states partners should be able to be present for labour, it means from induction onwards, not just the later stages of labour. 

Dr Henry said the HSE is clarifying that for hospitals now. 

Donnelly said:

“I welcome that weekly reviews of the situation will be conducted between the HSE and all maternity units. I share the frustration and the anguish of the many pregnant women and their partners about what some of them has been experiencing.”

Outlining situations at five units, Donnelly said issues at St Luke’s Kilkenny and Wexford General will be reviewed next week.

He said issues at Tipperary University Hospital will be reviewed “further”, while issues at Wexford University Hospital will be reviewed today. The situation with Letterkenny University Hospital will be reviewed on 17 May. 

A number of TDs and senators, such as Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns and Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers, have been highlighting the issue in recent weeks, calling for change so that women and their partners can be together during the birth of their child, and for important scans.

Last week, The Journal reported multiple experiences of women impacted by partner restrictions during pregnancy and birth. 

At the beginning of the year, this publication also highlighted the hundreds of emails sent to the health minister and other government members detailing their stories of being left alone when being told tragic news at maternity hospitals.

The Journal contacted some hospital groups on Tuesday for clarification of their individual maternity visitation policies in place.

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The National Maternity Hospital allows partners to attend the 20-week scan, the labour ward or C-section theatre, and inpatient visits for a limited time to postnatal, antenatal or gynaecology wards.

A statement from the Ireland East Hospital Group said some of its maternity units “cannot further ease partner restrictions” at the moment due to the “high amount” of Covid-19 in the community and infrastructure issues at hospitals. 

The Regional Hospital in Mullingar and Wexford General Hospital allow partners to attend the 20-week scan and active labour and scheduled caesarean sections. 

In St Luke’s General Hospital Carlow/Kilkenny, the group statement said it hopes to facilitate partners at the 20-week scan “as soon as possible”. Partners can currently attend active labour and scheduled C-sections. 

Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise said partners can attend the anatomy scan, birth once a woman is admitted to the delivery suite, C-sections and the postnatal ward for an hour. 

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