Republic of Ireland news

Maternity advocates in Republic call for detailed road map on easing restrictions

Professor Fergal Malone said weekly surveys of patients and visitors have shown that just 39% of pregnant women and 41% of their partners visiting the hospital have been fully vaccinated
Cate McCurry, PA

Maternity advocates are calling on the Republic of Ireland's government to publish a detailed road map on how maternity restrictions will be eased over the coming weeks and months.

Linda Kelly, a campaigner for better maternity care, said that women are being made to feel like “second-class citizens” by the ongoing restrictions in the country’s maternity units.

Ms Kelly, who is one of thousands of mothers who gave birth since restrictions were brought in, said that a workable solution is needed for pregnant women and their partners.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said that strict rules on maternity services would be lifted and published guidelines for hospitals seven weeks ago.

Ms Kelly claimed that maternity wards have not fully implemented all the guidelines.

She also dismissed the master of Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital’s statement that restrictions have not been eased because of the low vaccination rates among pregnant women and their partners.

Professor Fergal Malone said weekly surveys of patients and visitors have shown that just 39% of pregnant women and 41% of their partners visiting the hospital have been fully vaccinated.

Ms Kelly said there is no accurate data on vaccine uptake among pregnant people, and that the Rotunda survey was based on a snapshot of inpatients.

“What is really clear is that this issue around maternity services isn’t working,” she added.

“Every other hospital is also not compliant in some area. Women and families are being left to navigate this situation so we have to come up with a better solution.

“We are calling on the Cabinet sub-committee (on Covid-19) to publish a road map at the end of August to reopen, and that they include a dedicated road map for maternity so we know how we will come out of this situation.

“There hasn’t been a consistent approach from the HSE as to why they are continuing to exclude partners from certain aspects of maternity care.

“That is one of things that has been distressing for families, is that there hasn’t been a logical, consistent position from the HSE.”

Campaigners also say that PCR tests or rapid antigen tests should be used by partners to gain access to appointments and maternity wards.

“All of these things have to be looked at if we are going to come up with a solution that is appropriate for maternity services, because we know there are better outcomes for mums and babies and families when there isn’t a separation of the family unit at a critical point of care,” Ms Kelly added.

“The overwhelming feeling from people is that they are really distressed and anxious.

“The HSE is saying partners can be there for the labour, but they are not allowed in for the early labour and someone could be like that for 12 hours or 24 hours.

“The birth is an unknown and it can be really distressing, anything can happen and to know you are going to be on your own is really what causes a huge amount of distress and anxiety.

“This has to be looked at. We all feel like second-class citizens.”

In a statement, the Midwives Association of Ireland (MAI) called for the Government and the HSE to consider its proposals for alternative ways of providing antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care.

It added: “The MAI, while acknowledging that the HSE and government have a duty of care to protect midwives and all other hospital workers, acknowledge the impact we are now witnessing on those accessing maternity service. It is now critical that we urgently focus on every woman’s human right to have respectful and dignified care.

“The adoption of a number of our suggestions and those adopted in other countries would require lateral thinking by all those involved, a willingness to find solutions and commitment to adjust how we do things nationally.

“We strongly suggest the input of all stakeholders including public representative groups who have been indefatigable in their efforts to have

their concerns listened to over the last year.”

The HSE and the Department of Health have been contacted for comment.

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