Maternity units have been given until the end of the day to explain why they are still imposing restrictions on partners of pregnant people.
The HSE has already issued guidelines stating that, at a minimum, partners should be allowed to attend the 20-week scan, active labour and during neo-natal care.
However, different restrictions remain in place at some of the country’s 19 maternity units as each hospital has autonomy to set its own rules.
This morning, the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he was “getting quite frustrated” with the lack of progress on the situation.
“All 19 maternity units are being contacted right now and they are being told very clearly what the guidance is from the Chief Clinical Officer – which is that, at a minimum, there is access for the 20-week scan, for birth and for neo-natal,” he said.
“Any maternity unit that does not believe that is appropriate or safe at the moment must provide a case back.
“That information is being compiled as we speak and I’ll have a report on that information back from the HSE later today.”
Yesterday, protesters gathered at four hospitals calling for the restrictions to be relaxed – with women sharing ‘terrifying’ experiences of suffering complications without their partners there to support them.
The Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services in Ireland (AIMS Ireland) has welcomed the maternity hospital deadline.
However, Chairperson Krysia Lynch is calling for restrictions to be eased even further.
“I think the minister is to be commended on showing leadership here but we need him to go much further than this,” she said.
“The maternity hospitals have been given a deadline now – which is what we have asked for all the time.
“We have asked for clear targets; we have asked for a clear timeline and now they have been given that, which is great, but they obviously need it to go further.
“The most important thing that is affecting pregnant people and their partners right now is the issue of being alone during early labour and being alone during an induction.”
Newstalk has been highlighting the concerns of new mothers right through the pandemic.
Earlier this week, a Dublin councillor whose young baby died late last year warned that the maternity restrictions were forcing women to go through ‘some of the most traumatic experiences of their lives completely unsupported.’
Yesterday, a woman who gave birth just a week after losing her own mother said it is “shocking and absolutely shameful” that maternity restrictions are still ongoing.
The Taoiseach, Chief Medical Officer and Health Minister have all said they see no public health reasoning for the ongoing restrictions at many maternity units.
Reporting from Stephanie Rohan