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Maternity partner restrictions raised again in Dáil as Taoiseach told all units compliant

Micheál Martin said the HSE issued “very, very clear guidance” to maternity units on the restrictions.

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

ISSUES AROUND PARTNER restrictions at maternity units across the country have been raised again in the Dáil, with a TD describing the rules as “unfair, unethical and inhumane”.

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore said some partner restrictions are “still in place at hospitals around the country” while the Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he has been told all hospitals are now complying with HSE guidance.

“Women are still facing their labour journey without their support partners, women are still suffering miscarriages without their support partner and women are still having to deal with the after-effects of caesarian sections without having supports in place,” Whitmore said in the Dáil this afternoon. 

In a guidance document issued on 23 June, the HSE said partners should be facilitated “throughout the process of labour and childbirth during the time the woman is in the labour ward”.

The advice says access may be limited before the woman is in the labour ward.

Partners should also be permitted at the 20-week scan along with other antenatal appointments or attendances “if there is reason to anticipate” that they could be stressful or emotional.

The guidance said these may include attendance at early pregnancy assessment units, visits by women considered to have higher risk pregnancies and during emergency presentations during pregnancy.

The Taoiseach said that in mid-May, 14 of the 19 maternity units in Ireland were “fully compliant” with the guidance around partner visits at the time. 

Last week, that number was 16 and I understand that the three remaining hospitals were to be fully compliant with the current guidance by the 21st of June, last Monday. 

“So we’re being told that they’re all compliant,” Martin said.

He said the HSE issued “very, very clear guidance” to maternity units on this issue.

At a press briefing last week, the HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said   limitations on partner access to hospitals should be lifted in specific instances as outlined in the HSE’s guidance. 

Linda Kelly, a campaigner for maternity care and a director at Fórsa, told Newstalk last week that the health service still has a distance to go to resolve access concerns for partners.

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

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

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