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Pregnant woman couldn't avail of maternity care because she was registered as a man by the State

The woman is due her 12-week scan in two weeks for what is her first pregnancy.

Image: Shutterstock/Andrzej Wilusz

A PREGNANT WOMAN was left unable to avail of maternity services for over three weeks after being registered incorrectly as a man by the State. 

The woman, who is due her 12-week scan in two weeks, said that the maternity unit of the HSE told her to wait and that there was nothing they could do to speed up the process of changing her gender on her file. 

The woman tried multiple departments in the HSE to try to get registered by the system, but none were able to make the minor change required, or put her in touch with someone who could do it. 

She has filed a complaint about the way the issue was dealt with, saying that she was spoken to in a “rude” and unsympathetic manner. 

Three days after The Journal contacted the HSE Press Office, the woman’s file was amended and she was able to register her pregnancy.

‘We don’t know how long it will take’

The woman is in Ireland on an employment visa, and her partner is an EU citizen. She has spoken on the condition of anonymity as she has not told everyone in her close circle that she is pregnant.

When she attended her GP clinic to confirm her pregnancy, the GP was unable to register her on the HSE’s Maternity and Infant Care Scheme system using her PPSN, as she was showing up on the system as a man.

Under this scheme, every woman who is pregnant and resident in Ireland is entitled to maternity care.

After contacting the maternity unit of the HSE, the woman was advised to send in an email to request that the error would be corrected. She did so, and asked for proof so there was “a little back and forth”, she told The Journal. She was then told that it had been sent to the ‘change of details’ unit, and that she would be notified when it had been amended.

Days later she asked for an update from the HSE’s maternity unit over email, did not hear back, and called the unit. They advised her to ring back the following week.

The following week, she rang back and she said she was told “you need to wait, they have a backlog, we don’t know how long it will take.”

“At that point I was already a bit mad because I felt like someone working in a department for pregnant women – maybe I was wrong – but I was really expecting them to be a bit more understanding or compassionate, but they were literally like, ‘there’s nothing we can do for you, you need to wait. We don’t know how long it will take’,” she said. 

When she asked for contact details for the ‘change of details unit’, she was told the HSE’s maternity unit didn’t have their contact details.

“It was like, ‘it’s not our problem, there’s nothing we can do, it got sent off to this department which is a total black box, we don’t have the phone number for them, figure it out’.”

‘I never told anyone I’m a man’

She told The Journal that she subsequently contacted “pretty much every department” in the HSE to try to get in touch with this “mysterious” unit, but was unable to. 

I couldn’t really hold off on my pregnancy, and I really needed to register it, especially because there are some tests that are very time sensitive and you have to do them on a specific date. So I was really stressed and anxious knowing that I can’t even go through with getting the medical treatment that I needed in a few weeks’ time.

She said she was told by other branches of the HSE, who she said were “more empathetic” to her case, that the maternity unit should be able to amend her details, as there is no central HSE database that would require a ‘change of details’ unit.

When she contacted the maternity unit again to relay what she had been told, she was told that she would have to wait, and there was nothing more that could be done.

“They were pretty rude about it,” she said. “I’m surprised someone in a maternity unit could be so lacking in empathy.”

Not even a bit of empathy for a pregnant woman in this situation, which is obviously their error – I never [said] that I’m a man.

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After the woman contacted The Journal last week about the issue, a query was submitted to the HSE to request a response for the incident. The woman also contacted several TDs. 

After being advised the issue could be with her PPSN, the woman contacted the Client ID Services at the Department of Protection. 

They confirmed to her that she had been registered as a man by the State, but that error had been fixed on Monday 21 June. The woman then called the maternity unit of the HSE again, and after checking her file, they confirmed that her details had been amended.

The woman then called her GP back, and was able to register her pregnancy, who said it was surprising that it was sorted within 3-4 weeks. The woman said: 

The 12-week scan is in two weeks, so if I didn’t put that much pressure on them, then I would still be spiraling, trying to scramble and find a way to change it. Showing up at my 12-week scan, I don’t know if they would have accepted me because there is essentially no official coverage, because I’m [registered as] a man.

She has submitted a complaint to the HSE about the manner in which her query had been dealt with.

The HSE said in a statement:

“The HSE cannot comment on individual cases in order to protect people’s privacy.  However, should a medical card holder who is registering with the Maternity & Infant (M & I) Scheme, have an error in their details, they can send their PPS number to M&I scheme and request them to be updated. This is subsequently forwarded to the ‘change of details’ unit and is processed from here.   For those without a medical card, whose details were incorrect, it is a case of going to the Department of Social Protection as it is likely that it is detailing pertaining to an individual’s PPS number.”

The Department of Social Protection said it cannot comment on individual cases.

If you have faced a similar issue in accessing maternity services, or in changing your details with the HSE in order to avail of healthcare, get in touch: grainne@thejournal.ie.

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