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Taoiseach: 'There's no reason why partners cannot attend maternity scans - it should not be happening'

Activists have said there’s been no changes since new HSE advice to maternity hospitals was issued.

Image: Shutterstock/Sara Nicole Garavuso

THE TAOISEACH HAS said there is “no reason” why partners cannot attend maternity scans or the labour, after updated public health advice appeared to curtail the areas where partners can attend. 

On 13 May, the HSE issued guidance to clarify that the public health situation was such that partners can be present throughout labour and the birth of their child. Previous advice issued on 30 April said that partners can been permitted at 20-week scan and other maternity appointments. 

But activists calling for improvements to Irish maternity services have said that since that guidance has been issued, they have received hundreds of messages from people to say nothing had changed.

Government and officials from the HSE have been saying for weeks that partners are allowed to attend maternity appointments, but this doesn’t appear to be followed at hospitals.

The HSE’s CCO Dr Colm Henry suggested today that of the 19 maternity units and hospitals in the country, only four or five are not permitting partners as per the HSE advice.

The Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said last month that 14 of Ireland’s 19 maternity units were “fully compliant” with national policy. He said the five non-compliant units “all have at least issues with daily visitation and all five are part of a general hospital, rather than being a standalone maternity unit”. 

The Taoiseach’s statement

Speaking in the Dáil today in response to a question from Labour leader Alan Kelly, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said:

There’s no reason why partners cannot attend scanning or maternity services. It should not be happening, very clear guidance has been given by the HSE to its hospitals.

“The question is often asked ‘Who is in charge?’ Well in health, in the world of medicine, politicians don’t dictate to medics.

But in this context though, given that we have now had such a successful vaccine rollout, given that the level of disease is so low, risks are very low, its very difficult to comprehend why there would be these restrictions continuing, particularly given the national guidance given by the HSE.

The comments come as advocates for mothers said that the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) has tweaked its May advice for maternity hospitals to allow partners, in what appears to curtail the areas in the hospitals where they can be present. 

A line was added to advice that says women should be allowed to be accompanied by their partner during labour and childbirth, to add that this applies only when in the labour ward.

“Before moving to the labour ward,” the updated advice from 11 June states, “in particular when the woman is in a multi-bed area, access for an accompanying person may be limited by the requirement to respect the needs of other patients for rest and privacy.”

With reporting from Orla Dwyer.

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