Five maternity units still failing to comply with national guidelines for partners

Senator hits out at Galway hospital over ‘half-baked’ anomaly scans for pregnant women

University Hospital Galway has been accused of only giving “half-baked” anomaly scans for women at the 20-week stage of pregnancy.

Fianna Fáil Seanad leader Lisa Chambers made the claim as she also alleged that Limerick hospital was only providing the 20-week scan to at-risk pregnancies, which she said "is unacceptable" in 2021 as was a localised approach.

Ms Chambers also said that five of the State’s 19 maternity hospitals and units are still “completely outside” national guidelines and have failed to allow partners attend with pregnant women at “almost any stage”.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid wrote to maternity units seeking confirmation that they were implementing the current updated national guidelines from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre that generally appropriate to facilitate attendance by a partner through active labour and childbirth, after 20 weeks scans and also daily visits in visiting including neo-natal units.


Restrictions were introduced because of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Some maternity services have separately been disrupted by the cyberattack on the HSE IT system.

Ms Chambers who has repeatedly raised the issue in the Seanad told the House she had seen a letter the Saolta hospital group sent to a woman attending University Hospital Galway, stating that it could not conduct a full anomaly scan, would limit the appointment to 15 minutes due to social distancing requirements and, therefore, would give a partial anomaly scan.

“In that case they may as well not give a scan at all,” she said. “You need more than 15 minutes to do a scan as anyone who has been through this will testify.

“Basically, hospitals are fudging the numbers and saying that they conduct anomaly scans for all women when they only give a half-baked scan. They then deny doing so but I have seen it in black in white in a letter that a woman received.”

She said fathers and partners are still being left sitting in their cars waiting for a call to come in and mums are in considerable distress because of this situation.

She also said “the Limerick hospital is not providing the 20-week scan to all mums and only provides a scan for at-risk pregnancies, as it determines”.

“Every mother and their baby or babies are entitled to an anomaly scan, which is an essential part of the pregnancy process.”

She said that “five hospitals continue to be completely outside of national guidelines” despite the HSE saying that partners would be allowed to be present for labour, including induction, for the birth that there would be visits afterwards and that partners would be present for the really important 20-week anomaly scan”.

She said the five units “are not anywhere near compliant with the guidelines on allowing partners to be present at almost any stage. That must be addressed with urgency.”

Urgent update

She said called for an urgent update from the HSE on the national guidelines “what exactly is meant by ‘labour’ and if we can get a uniform approach across every hospital and unit as to what that means, and not have a localised approach”.

Green Party Seanad leader Pauline O’Reilly who has also repeatedly raised the issue said she was “practically tearing my hair out” about “the inequality in our healthcare services around the country”.

She said women should not have to take to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook “to shout for our own rights”.

Government Seanad leader Regina Doherty said the HSE chief executive and the Minister for Health have said the hospitals' responses about why they cannot adhere to the guidelines "do not stand up to scrutiny". She added that she would contact Mr Reid again about the issue.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times