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'I'm frustrated with the lack of progress': Donnelly says 19 maternity units are being contacted about restrictions

Restrictions remain in place in certain hospitals, with protesters gathering outside the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin yesterday.

The minister said all 19 maternity units are being called today.
The minister said all 19 maternity units are being called today.
Image: Sam Boal

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has said each maternity unit in Ireland is being contacted today to inform them of the guidance on the lifting of maternity restrictions in hospitals nationwide. 

Speaking to reporters this morning, he said: ”At this point, I am getting quite frustrated with the lack of progress and I know the HSE is as well.”

Restrictions remain in place in certain hospitals, with protesters gathering outside the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin yesterday.

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. 

The Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said this week there is “no good reason” for maternity hospitals to continue to restrict visits from partners. 

Maternity hospitals and units set individual restrictions, so exclusions on partners attending scans and the early stages of labour still apply in some hospitals. 

The health minister said today if maternity units believe there are safety issues in easing restrictions then the onus is on them to make that case back to the HSE.

Donnelly said he spoke to the HSE boss Paul Reid this morning about the matter, and as a result, all 19 maternity units are being contacted.

“They are being told very clearly what the guidance is from the chief medical officer that at the minimum there is access to the 20 week scan for birth and neonatal and that any maternity unit that doesn’t believe that is appropriate or safe at the moment must prove a case back,” he said.

He said that information is being compiled today and a report will be ready for the minister later today.

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 yesterday for clarification of their individual maternity visitation policies in place.

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. 

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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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