Deputy Niamh Smyth (FF).

Call for lifting of maternity access restrictions

The lifting of maternity restrictions on access for one partner should be returned to pre-pandemic levels a lobby group for maternity care has claimed.

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 be unrestricted between 8am and 9pm, 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, 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 has 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: “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.”

'Badly let down'

The matter was also raised at the September meeting of Cavan County Council last 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: “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 carpark 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.

The National Public Health Emergency Team agreed to recommend that the Government proceeds with a further lifting of restrictions from last Monday, given the latest data on Covid-19.

Situation in Cavan General

The manager of Cavan General Hospital confirmed to the Celt today that current visiting restrictions at the local hospital are in line with “national guidelines in relation to the visiting rights of partners during maternity care”.

The current HSE guidelines state: Partners who have no symptoms of COVID-19 should be welcomed at the 12 week scan as well as the 20 week scan with “flexibility” at other antenatal visits where there is likely to be “big news or a key decision to be made”.

Partners are permitted at a Caesarean delivery.

“Partners who have no symptoms should be welcome to have at least a short daily visit in inpatient areas, as well as be present for delivery in the labour wards and attend the early pregnancy assessment unit and that parents should be able to visit infants in the neonatal intensive care unit.”