Some Irish hospitals are still “wilfully disregarding” the HSE’s national policy on partners attending maternity units.
On The Hard Shoulder earlier this week, the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said every maternity unit in the country would be following the same rules by the end of the day.
He said that would see partners permitted to attend throughout the entire labour process, during neonatal care, during the 20-week scan and for at least 30 minutes a day in other circumstances.
He said full labour “includes being induced, right the way through, if being induced is part of it.”
On the show this evening however, Fórsa director and maternity care campaigner Linda Kelly said some hospitals are following the rule while others are only allowing partners in at 4cm dilation.
“I got a message late last night from a woman in the west of Ireland to say she was due for an induction today,” she said.
“First-time mum, very anxious about it, and she called the hospital and was told that under no circumstances was her partner to attend with her for the induction – that he would be allowed in when she reached this magical 4cm rule.
“I am also aware that the same situation is happening in Limerick and in the Rotunda as well. That is just the handful of hospitals that have contacted me in the last 12 hours.”
At a briefing this afternoon, the HSE CCO Dr Colm Henry said the guidance clearly states that partners should be with women in labour wards.
He said the 4cm is in place at hospitals that start labour outside the ward.
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
Ms Kelly said hospitals have been refusing to follow national guidance since the HSE’s first attempts to ease restrictions back in November.
“The situation is now drastically different with all staff vaccinated, lots of pregnant women vaccinated, with lots of partners now vaccinated and, you know, community transmission now really low,” she said.
“Yet we can’t seem to get this right and it is baffling at this stage.”
She said there have always been delays between the time the HSE directs something at national level and hospitals implementing it – but suggested the recent controversy goes deeper.
“What we have seen over the last six months is hospitals wilfully disregarding the HSE national policy,” she said.
“There are so many layers of management between the hospitals and Colm Henry and Paul Reid that, whether their communication itself is flawed or whether it is wilful … the hospitals have had to be brought kicking and screaming to implement the most basic care for women around these restrictions and at this stage, women are exhausted, partners are irate and we need to bring an end to it.”
Ms Kelly also warned that it makes no sense to have different rules for neonatal and postnatal care because the wards are mixed in many hospitals.
“One heart-breaking message I got this afternoon was from a woman who was being induced in a ward; who couldn’t have her partner with her - her partner was waiting in the car park - yet the partner of another woman in the ward was attending for a post-natal visit because their baby had been born,” she said.
“How does that make sense from an infection control point of view?”
She noted that the World Health Organisation has said women should have their partners with them throughout labour while Irish hospitals are “making arbitrary rules about 4cm ante-natal wards and they are not publishing any of the evidence to back up their position.”
“We can’t seem to get to grips with one nominated support partner, typically from the same household as the pregnant person, coming in for the birth of their child from start to finish,” she said.
Newstalk has been highlighting the concerns of new mothers right through the pandemic.
Last week, 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.”
You can listen back to Ms Kelly here: