Every hospital in Ireland will have the same rules for partners attending maternity services by the end of today, the Health Minister has told The Hard Shoulder.
Stephen Donnelly was speaking more than a month after he originally expressed frustration at the refusal of some maternity hospitals to allow partners to attend during scans and birth.
At the time, he instructed the HSE to contact all 19 maternity units and tell them that “very clearly” that NPHET believed visits should happen “at a minimum” for 30 minutes per day, throughout labour, during the 20-week scan and during neonatal intensive care.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, he said 16 maternity units were fully compliant with the rules by the end of last week and the other three will be fully compliant by the end of today.
Minister Donnelly said a number of recent high-profile incidents in which partners were not allowed enter the maternity unit while women were suffering miscarriages were “absolutely heart-breaking.”
He said new rules governing miscarriages and other emergency situations are being drawn up this week – but admitted it could take three or four weeks to roll them out across the country.
“The plan is, in the coming weeks – so we are only talking three or four weeks – the plan is, in the coming weeks, the emergency visits will be facilitated,” he said.
On Friday, a caller to the show named ‘John’ described how he was not permitted to enter the maternity unit while his wife was having a miscarriage and said trying to console her by text message was “barbaric.”
“I have been in very close contact with the HSE on this,” said Minister Donnelly. “They are very aware and we are acting on it.
“The emergency situation is being looked at this week and a full plan is being drawn up. All six of the maternity networks around the country are involved.
“Just to this heart-breaking situation that Jim found himself in, the plan will be put in place to restore that. The plan will be in place this week and then in the coming weeks that is going to be rolled out across the country.”
Every hospital in Ireland will have the same rules for partners attending maternity services by the end of today according to Stephen Donnelly.
This comes after listeners shared their stories about being left outside hospitals while their partners went through miscarriage alone. pic.twitter.com/ZXVaQibjjB
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) June 21, 2021
He defended the decisions made by maternity hospital managers in recent months by noting that they are "trying to look after mums and babies; they are not some group of people who sort of sit in ivory towers."
Asked why emergency visits can't be facilitated any earlier, he said: "We have got to listen to our clinicians."
"I am not an obstetrician. I am not an infectious disease specialist," he said. "I am not responsible for keeping mums and babies directly safe in any individual hospital. We set policy and we have set very clear policy but the flip side of this is we have to trust our clinicians.
"It doesn't always feel like it when you can't get in or if you are in there and your partner can't come in to support you, but ultimately, they are looking to keep mums and babies safe."
National Maternity Hospital
Minister Donnelly also said his "strong preference" is that the State would own the land the new National Maternity Hospital is built on.
It comes amid growing concern that the new hospital will “ultimately come under the control” of the Catholic Church.
The land is owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity; however, they agreed to hand over the lands to the State to build the new hospital back in 2017.
Last year, the Vatican approved what the sisters said was a “gift” of land worth €200m to the people of Ireland; however, it has since emerged that it is being gifted to a private charity whose board will be appointed by the St Vincent’s Hospital Group.
"I can reiterate again that I will not be bringing any recommendation to Government on a governance structure unless I am convinced that the independence is bullet-proof," said Minister Donnelly.
He said his department has documents proving the Government previously attempted to buy the land but was rejected.
"To be honest, that is all history. It is before my time. What I want to do is meet the stakeholders, go in with a very open mind and it is my strong preference that we would be gifted the land - or buy the land if needs be," he said.
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