National Maternity Hospital Covid-19 restrictions may be eased this week

Hope partners may be soon be allowed accompany women to 20-week scan

NMH Master Shane Higgins said his staff would ’be the first to acknowledge how difficult this has been for couples and mothers having to be on their own for ante-natal visits and scans’. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

NMH Master Shane Higgins said his staff would ’be the first to acknowledge how difficult this has been for couples and mothers having to be on their own for ante-natal visits and scans’. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Restrictions put in place in the largest maternity hospital in the State, to protect against Covid-19, may be eased this week its master has said.

Professor Shane Higgins of the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) in Dublin said some restrictions on partners entering the hospital had already been eased. These included now permitting partners to visit new mothers once a day and unrestricted visits to the neo-natal unit.

He was speaking on RTÉ radio’s Drivetime programme on Monday after the Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu wrote the masters of the three main maternity hospitals asking them to ease restrictions on partners.

Ms Chu did so after a large reaction over the weekend to a tweet from ‘gentle birthing’ instructor Sarah Flynn. In her Twitter thread Ms Flynn said: “Have just received a message from a pregnant lady which has broken my heart and I couldn’t not try and raise her points as they are very valid.

“Why in the midst of the valid noise about pubs etc, is nobody talking about the raw deal pregnant women are getting? This lady today had a very difficult appointment, alone without her partner. She felt her care was cold…and said she left the appointment and cried in her car. I know she is not alone - I speak to these women every single day.”

Ms Flynn said many women were struggling “to understand the ongoing restrictions” on partners accompanying them at maternity hospitals when they could go together to cafes or weddings. “I have spoken to women who have miscarried alone,” she said, adding it was a national issue and not confined to the NMH.

Prof Higgins said his staff would “be the first to acknowledge how difficult this has been for couples and mothers having to be on their own for ante-natal visits and scans”.

He said the NMH, as the pandemic took hold, had to determine, “what was feasible and reasonable and minimise the risk to staff and patients” within the confines of a cramped 126-year old building.

“We have since removed some of those restrictions and allow partners in on a daily basis after the birth of the baby [AND THERE ARE]unrestricted visits to the neo-natal unit.

“We are hoping to continue to revise our restrictions on visiting and attendance at visits to allow as many couples to come together to as many visits as possible.”

He said the “key scan” during pregnancy was that carried out at 20 weeks’ gestation, known as the ‘anomaly scan’ during which there was a full examination of the foetus’s developing body.

“The big scan, the 20-week anomaly scan is probably the next rollback of those restrictions that we are going to see here at the NMH…That is a key scan that we will start to allow partners to come in to. We have our next [MANAGEMENT]meeting this Wednesday morning.”

If the team decided the circumstances were right to allow partners attend anomaly scans, they would be allowed from then on. “It could come as early as this week,” said the Master.

He agreed a national protocol, applicable to all maternity hospitals and units, was desirable but said that would be “almost impossible”.