18 May 2022

Expecting Laois mum calls on people to 'take a stand' against hospital Covid-19 maternity restrictions

Local woman says she expects her husband will see contractions on a screen in hospital carpark

coronavirus covid-19

Protest at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise earlier this year

A local woman has called for the people of Laois to take a stand against what she terms are 'barbaric' Covid-19 restrictions on couples set to have a child at Portlaoise hospital.

In a letter to the Leinster Express the woman, who did not wish to be named, outlined our anger and frustration at the restrictions which have been in place for months.

"I can’t quite believe that I am writing to demand a change in maternity restrictions, despite indoor dining resuming and wedding guests increasing to 100 people. Currently Portlaoise hospital, like all hospitals in the country, allows partners access to the labour ward once labour is deemed active (4cm dilation) and can then visit for just one hour a day after birth. 

"An article published in the Irish Independent by Holly Cairns TD captures better than I ever could the arbitrary nature of these rules which baffle logic. 

"In April, the focus was very much on vaccination as a reason for partners not to attend the hospital until labour was deemed “active” (4cm dilation). Currently 5.5 million vaccines have been administered in Ireland. Despite the majority of pregnant women and their partners being fully vaccinated, the vaccine bonus that allows people to dine indoors still excludes fathers from attending the entirety of labour for the birth of their child. 

"What angers me most as a woman eight months pregnant is the poignant truth of a mock article which appeared in Waterford Whispers last week.

"The title is ludicrous but it’s the truth - if I gave birth in a few weeks in my local pub, my husband could be there for the whole labour and stay for as long as he liked after! 

"While it is wonderful to see society reopening, the startling truth is that priority is given to reopening services which affect the economy rather than women’s physical and mental health. The focus is on allowing partners to wet the baby’s head rather than be by the mother’s side. 

"At this late stage in my pregnancy I have resigned myself to the fact that these “rules” are unlikely to change and my husband will witness my contractions via FaceTime from the hospital car park in Portlaoise. It’s not a story I will look forward to telling my unborn child but it is the reality that women all over the country face.

"I plead with the people of Laois to take a stand against these barbaric rules and treat pregnant women with the respect that they deserve," she concluded. MORE BELOW LINK

The issue was also taken up by Fianna Fáil TD for Laois-Offaly, Barry Cowen. He called on his own Government and the HSE to issue clear direction to hospitals who continue to enforce maternity restrictions.  

“Given that 70% of adults are now fully vaccinated there does seem to be a clear case for extended maternity ward access to the partners of pregnant women – especially if they are fully vaccinated. 

“I believe that hospitals have been given too much local discretion and it should be a centralised decision, so we have uniformity of care across the country.   

“If maternity units believe there are safety issues in easing restrictions, then the onus should be on them to make that case back to the HSE," he said. MORE BELOW LINK

The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group issuesd a response on behalf of Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise.

"The Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise have continued to facilitate partners attending for birth throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The hospital is managing access and visiting to the maternity services in accordance with the national guidance.

"The HSE reviewed the policies which the 19 maternity units have in place for designated partners’ visiting during the pandemic and confirmed that the hospital is compliant with HSE guidance".  

The statment said the following has been updated in recent months taking into account the reducing covid status within hospital and the community.

· Partners can attend for the anatomy scan and the booking scan.

· Partners are facilitated to attend the birth once the woman is admitted to the delivery suite in labour and partners are encouraged and facilitated to remain for the duration of labour, the birth of the baby and up to 1 hour on the postnatal ward. This includes the induction of birth in the delivery suite.

· Partners are also facilitated to be present in theatre at Caesarean Section for the birth of the baby.  

· The hospital have reintroduced scheduled visiting to the maternity ward since Monday 3rd May for ante natal, postnatal women and also in exceptional circumstances, which is arranged by appointment, generally this visit is scheduled for up to an hour.

· Scheduled visiting is facilitated in the special care baby unit

The statement added gave some background and further explanation for the application of continued restrictions.

"The implementation of restrictions was in a time of intense pressure and uncertainty as Hospitals responded to the Covid-19 pandemic .These decisions were taken in the best interest of expectant mothers, their families and our staff. The hospitals fully accept and understand the impact of the restrictions, particularly at the height of the pandemic, and how difficult this is for expectant mothers and their families.

"The easing of these restrictions is not straightforward and must take account of the limitations of our existing infrastructure so we can comply with social distancing and ensure the ongoing safety of expectant mothers, their newborn babies and staff," it said.

The statement concluded that arrangements will be kept under constant review and in the full consideration of the safety of the women and families attending our services.  



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