All maternity units to follow partner visit guidelines by end of today, Minister says

Seanad hears of ‘absolutely disgraceful’ situation in relation to visiting restrictions

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that all of the State’s maternity units will be following the same visiting guidelines for patients’ partners by the end of today. File photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that all of the State’s maternity units will be following the same visiting guidelines for patients’ partners by the end of today. File photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that all of the State’s maternity units will be following the same visiting guidelines for patients’ partners by the end of today.

Mr Donnelly made the comments during an appearance on Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder on Monday.

During the radio appearance the Minister also said that a plan is being worked on this week to facilitate emergency visits by partners to maternity units for cases such as miscarriage.

“The plan will be put in place this week and then in the coming weeks it will be rolled out across the country . . . we’re only talking three or four weeks, the emergency visits will be facilitated.”

On Monday, the Seanad was told that hospitals in Kilkenny, Tipperary and Wexford have not been complying with HSE guidelines on easing visiting restrictions in maternity units.

Fine Gael Senator Garret Ahearn pointed to comments by HSE chief executive Paul Reid last week that 16 of the 19 maternity units in the State were complying and were easing restrictions.

The Tipperary Senator said St Luke’s General Hospital in Kilkenny, Tipperary University Hospital and Wexford General Hospital were not complying.

Mr Ahearn said that “despite what the management at Tipperary University Hospital has been telling me, telling the Minister, and telling everybody within the community to the effect that the facility has been complying, it is clear now that they are not”.

He said St Luke’s in Kilkenny is easing restrictions from Monday “on allowing partners in at the start when they arrive at the door”, and easing restrictions around visiting times after the labour.

He said that many of the staff and people who work in the Tipperary hospital “have been calling for the easing of restrictions, internally in the hospital, for months”.

Mr Ahearn said he knew of a case where the labour was so traumatic that the mother is receiving professional counselling in the hospital, while at the same time her partner is not allowed to come in to visit her. “It is absolutely disgraceful and it needs to be changed.”

‘Doing what they please’

Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers said “the hospitals are clearly just ignoring those guidelines and doing what they please. It does not happen in any other area of healthcare, yet it is somehow okay when it comes to women’s healthcare.”

Ms Chambers referred to a radio interview in which a man called John was stopped at the door of the hospital and not allowed to go in with his wife who had suffered a miscarriage.

“He spoke about how his wife was distraught and devastated, on her own in her hospital bed, while he was trying to console her via WhatsApp. It is unacceptable and disgraceful.”

The Mayo Senator warned that “we will be dealing with the impact of the trauma we are causing on people unnecessarily.

“We are still waiting for a proper and full response from the HSE as to who is making the decisions.”

Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly said University Hospital Galway had lifted some of the restrictions, which was very welcome, but “they all need to be lifted at this stage”.

Calling for a debate on maternity services, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said that “there are major issues around maternity care and reproductive healthcare for women in this country”.

Mr Ahearn also hit out at a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) last week that said “appropriate attention should be given to the prevention of drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing age between 18 and 50”.

“This is just women; there is nothing about preventing men from taking alcohol if they are considering having children. Is it any wonder that women in the State feel unfairly discriminated against?” he said.