Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly have criticised the Rotunda Hospital for permitting a camera crew to film inside the Dublin maternity hospital while Covid-19 restrictions were in place for patients' partners.
This week, RTÉ broadcast the first episode of the latest series of The Rotunda, which was filmed when Covid-19 restrictions in maternity hospitals prevented partners from accompanying patients in many circumstances.
"I don't think it is appropriate that if partners were denied access that a TV crew should be allowed in," Mr Martin told reporters at the Fianna Fáil think-in in Co Cavan.
Mr Martin said there had to be consistency in relation to the rules and recognised how the public could be angered by the programme at a time when there were restrictions in place.
There could not be “one set of guidance for partners and another set of guidelines for the media when we are talking about Covid-19”, he said.
Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers, also speaking in Co Cavan, said she was "disgusted" to see the new series of the fly-on-the-wall documentary on day-to-day operations of the Rotunda Hospital air.
“It is wrong. I think the Rotunda should be asked questions on it. I think RTÉ was wrong to do it and should have known better rather than airing any programme,” she said.
“It is just compounding the hurt that many parents across the country feel. Saying you are angry is an understatement of the feelings the public have expressed.”
Mr Donnelly said he agreed completely with the views expressed by Ms Chambers. He said he was “looking into” the matter and called on the Master of the Rotunda to address the issue.
He said that “access to maternity services for partners has been a very, very important issue this year” and that it had been “particularly distressing” that there had been emergency cases where “partners were not let in”.
A spokeswoman for RTÉ said that it reduced footfall in the hospital “to the bare minimum”, with a lot of filming taking place off-site and the majority of filming in the hospital recorded using remote cameras controlled from outside the building.
RTÉ and the Rotunda said that for some filming one crew member or occasionally “a compact two-person crew” was present inside the hospital.
The hospital said management decided to proceed with filming “as it is an important platform that allows patients and their families to share their pregnancy and birth stories with dignity and respect, both joyous and heartbreaking”.
The Rotunda said that it believed it was important to understand how maternity services continued to operate safely for all patients despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and by the cyberattack on the HSE.
Later, the hospital said in a follow-up statement that it “very much regrets any upset or anxiety that the broadcast of this important documentary has caused, as none was ever intentioned.”
Additional reporting: PA