Call for lifting of maternity access restrictions

A lobby group for maternity care has called for the lifting of maternity restrictions on access for one partner to pre-pandemic levels.

In August the National Maternity Hospital announced it was making changes to restrictions on partners accessing the hospital. The announcement said partner access during the day would now be unrestricted between 8 am and 9 pm, and that partners would also be unrestricted during labour/birth once the expectant mother is admitted to a bed.

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan and North Meath, Niamh Smyth, is calling for the remaining maternity restrictions to be lifted to pre-pandemic access for one partner. Her calls come following a cross party meeting with a lobby group #BetterMaternityCare which asked the Minister for Health to intervene on the matter.

Deputy Smyth said the issue has been the source of very real emotional pain for many families: “Since the pandemic has begun there's been 96,000 births, 25% of expectant mothers have experienced a pregnancy loss and some mothers are now entering their second pregnancy during COVID with the same restrictions still in place. Both the Taoiseach and Minister for Health stated that unless there are clinical reasons for the restrictions, they should be lifted.”

The Fianna Fáil Deputy said she will continue to work to have the matter resolved: “Today the Oireachtas Women’s Caucus chaired by Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O’Loughlin met with the Minister for Health to discuss women’s healthcare and we asked the Minister to intervene and ensure that all remaining maternity restrictions are lifted to pre-pandemic access for one partner.”

The matter was also raised at the September meeting of Cavan County Council earlier this week. A motion by Cllr Shane P O'Reilly called on the health minister and associated departments to remove the rules preventing partners attend at birth or appointments.

Cllr O'Reilly (Ind) said: “The situation has gone past 'badly let down'. RTE are allowed film in the Rotunda, but partners are not allowed in? This is a very thorny issue.”

Cllr Sarah O'Reilly (Aon) agreed with this contention: “Senior management in hospitals appear to have lost empathy in regard to this issue. You can have 300 people in Tesco, but a partner can't attend for a hospital appointment with an expectant mother. We need to shout stop. Having a partner out in the car park while an appointment is taking place is taking things too far.”

Cllr John Paul Feeley said the issue is wide ranging and spoke of an incident in which he attended at A&E with a relative, but was “turfed out” because of the restrictions: “Covid has presented many challenges, but it has also been used as an excuse by many to avoid responsibility and lessen standards,” he told fellow councillors, “We need to find a workaround on this. In emergency situations people are entitled to have the support of their families.”

Cllr TP O'Reilly concurred saying there was a need for a greater level of empathy in the management of the health sector, while Cllr Brendan Fay said he was supporting the motion to write to the head of the HSE, Paul Reid, about the matter.

Yesterday it was announced that the National Public Health Emergency Team has agreed to recommend that the Government proceeds with its plan for a further lifting of restrictions from next Monday, given the latest data on Covid-19.