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Four maternity units not allowing partners attend emergency pregnancy cases

“There has been a real issue there, it is arguably the most important time,” Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said.

Image: sopotnicki

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has given an update on the restrictions on partners attending emergency and high-risk maternity appointments, adding that the issue has been a source of “frustration” for women, the HSE, and the Government.

Partners of pregnant women had been advised not to attend maternity appointments during Level 5 restrictions due to infection control measures, in order to keep both pregnant women and the staff who care for them safe. After number of cases fell to a rate considered ‘low’, and once healthcare staff were vaccinated, these guidelines were lifted.

After a number of stories were raised of partners not being permitted to attend appointments, mothers’ and women’s advocacy groups began calling for partners to be allowed to attend pre-natal appointments, the delivery suite and post-natal wards.

Despite several members of the Government and HSE agreeing that partners should be permitted to attend, there are still frequently cases raised where partners are refused to attend maternity appointments with pregnant women.

Speaking to an Oireachtas Health Committee today, Donnelly said that this was “a source of frustration for women and their partners, it is a source of frustration for me, and I know it is a source of frustration for the HSE as well”.

In response to a question from Labour Senator Annie Hoey, Donnelly gave a detailed breakdown of what hospitals are allowing partners to attend maternity services.

He said that the current HSE guidance on partners attending hospitals is that daily visits, which is a minimum of 30 minutes for:

  • the anomaly scan (20-week scan),
  • the neonatal intensive care unit, and
  • the birth, right from the start of labour until the end.

He said that it hasn’t always been possible to facilitate visits to the multi-occupancy antenatal wards before labour due to infection prevention control reasons, which was the case before Covid-19.

In relation to unplanned attendance due to emergency presentations, the HSE issued updated guidance on 24 June.

Donnelly said: “There has been a real issue there, it is arguably the most important time.”

He said his officials have surveyed compliance with emergency presentations at all 19 maternity hospitals and units through the six hospital groups that represent them, and as of this week:

  • 18 of the 19 units are allowing partners to attend early-assessment units
  • 12 of the 19 are allowing partners to attend in cases of high-risk pregnancies
  • 15 of the 19 are allowing partners to attend in cases of emergency presentations.

“I am engaging with the HSE to get up to full compliance across all 19 units – it is a lot higher than it was,” Donnelly said.

He said that although they are “moving at pace” on this, he said he was “very conscious” of individual cases.

I’m aware of very very difficult cases where there are emergency presentations, but there still isn’t access for the partner, which is causing huge grief and huge problems for the woman and for the partner as well.

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“So we’ve got to keep working with the HSE to get full compliance across all 19 units.”

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