HSE looking at 'virtual appointments' for pregnant women

The Health Service Executive (HSE) says it is looking at allowing virtual appointments for partn...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

13.27 25 Sep 2020

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HSE looking at 'virtual appoin...

HSE looking at 'virtual appointments' for pregnant women

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

13.27 25 Sep 2020

Share this article

The Health Service Executive (HSE) says it is looking at allowing virtual appointments for partners of pregnant women, following criticism of COVID-19 restrictions in maternity hospitals.

It is thought smartphones or cameras could be used by the partners to link into scans.

Most hospitals are currently asking women to attend on their own.


Catherine Allman is 35 weeks pregnant and due in November.

She said she feels women are being overlooked.

"We have solved the issues with wet pubs, we have solved the issues with restaurants, we've somehow managed now to get people back into schools and universities - but we still can't get people's partners, one additional person, into a room in this situation.

"And I think setting up Zoom links for doctor's appointments is actually very insulting."

"The support you would get through that type of experience is just not enough.

"And I can't believe we're still here unable to rectify this situation with people who are in a very vulnerable situation.

"And specifically people who might be going through miscarriages".

In a statement, the HSE said it is "very conscience of the anxiety caused to pregnant women due to the restrictions imposed due to COVID."

It said individual units review these restrictions regularly - but that, given the current situation, "it is difficult to see how these restrictions can be reversed."

However the health service said it will have to consider how the wishes of pregnant women can be facilitated.

"These considerations will include the possibility of rapid testing, improving the physical environment in the scanning department and exploring if the partner's virtual attendance could be facilitated, particularly for scans," it added.

'Over-crowding is intolerable'

Speaking last week, the Master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin explained why they have such restrictions.

Professor Fergal Malone said: "As practically as we can we've tried to put safe restrictions in, but make reasonable acceptations to accommodate patients and their families.

"So what that actually means is for routine anti-natal visits, where you might have 60 or 70 sitting in a cramped waiting area, if that suddenly is now 130 or 140 people - because their partners are there as well - the over-crowding is just intolerable.

"I wish I had a huge waiting area, but I don't".

Prof Malone said patient feedback showed people most want partners in the 20-week anomaly scan, which they have done.

"People call it 'the big scan' - for the 20 week anomaly scan, we do have partners in the Rotunda.

"Not all maternity hospitals do, but we've managed to do that".

He said giving women bad news is never easy: "People come in in their early pregnancy for scan, they're expecting good news and to pull the rug out form under them and to give them bad news is terribly upsetting for everyone and we're very sensitive to that.

"Our challenge is that we can never tell in advance in an early pregnancy assessment unit which is the one woman who's going to be given bad news - and who are the three, four or five who are getting good news.

"So we can't separate that out at the start.

"If we have found bad news, we obviously and immediately allow and invite the support person in... so there's always that appropriate exceptions to all of these restrictions".

Main image by lisa runnels from Pixabay 

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Catherine Allman Coronavirus Restrictions Covid-19 Maternity Hospitals Maternity Services Rotunda Hospital Virtual Appointments

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