Maternity restrictions are “power struggle” between HSE, TDs & hospitals – Nolan

Some fathers are still being denied entry to hospital when their partners go into labour.

Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan has called on the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and HSE CEO Paul Reid to immediately re-engage with the master’s and heads of all the national maternity hospitals.

Mr. Reid had written to all maternity hospitals and units in May, telling them the “time is right” to lift restrictions, but some hospitals have maintained the measures up until now.

Deputy Nolan said that a concerted effort must be made to resolve the ongoing challenges faced by pregnant women, and their partners who are being denied access to hospitals during pre-birth labour.

“Almost every week I have seriously distressed pregnant women contacting my office on this issue. Some of them are absolutely terrified at the prospect of having to go through their first birth unaccompanied by their spouses or partners,” Nolan said.

“It is causing real and lasting harm and it cannot be allowed to continue.”

Nolan claimed many pregnant women looked at the dispute between health chiefs as a kind of “proxy power struggle” between the HSE, politicians and the maternity hospitals.

“There is also a view being put forward by some of the maternity hospitals, most notably the Rotunda in Dublin, that these restrictions are based on firm guidance around patient safety,” Deputy Nolan continued.

“However, we have known for months now, in fact we have known since early May, that HSE CEO Paul Reid wrote to all maternity units about partner restrictions where he insisted that conditions were right for restrictions to be lifted.

“Are the maternity hospitals now saying that the assessment conducted by the HSE was inaccurate and misleading?

“All of this is only feeding in to the perception of a power struggle between the HSE and the hospitals with women and their partners caught in the middle.

“I have been urging the Minister and the HSE to act on this matter since last September when I first wrote to Minister Donnelly.

“It is simply appalling to think that so many women are still being subjected to such cruel and heartless levels of restrictions all this time on. The situation must change, and it must change immediately,” Nolan concluded

Meanwhile, the HSE has said 40 percent of pregnant women are opting to take a Covid-19 vaccine, with the Rotunda Hospital citing low uptake as one of the reasons it has delayed lifting restrictions.

Rotunda Master Prof. Fergal Malone said that if they could “get the vaccination numbers up” then the hospital will consider it “safe to relax all restrictions.”

The HSE have said Covid-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant women, and recommend a first dose at 14 weeks and the second dose before 36 weeks.

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