All maternity hospitals can allow partner visits from November 1st

HSE made the decision following ‘constructive meetings with campaigners’

Partners can access inpatient areas during normal visiting hours of 8am to 9pm from November 1st, according to updated guidance from the HSE. Photograph: iStock

Partners can access inpatient areas during normal visiting hours of 8am to 9pm from November 1st, according to updated guidance from the HSE. Photograph: iStock

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All maternity services can provide access for partners of patients from November 1st, the HSE said on Friday.

Partners can access inpatient areas during normal visiting hours of 8am to 9pm from November 1st, according to updated guidance from the HSE.

Following “constructive meetings with campaigners,” the HSE looked at the recent experience of two maternity hospitals managing greater access for nominated support partners in all inpatient areas, including multi-bed rooms, the HSE said.

The HSE found that patients, partners and staff “worked very well together to make this work,” Prof Martin Cormican, national clinical lead on the antimicrobial resistance and infection prevention control team at the HSE said.

“The hospitals taking this approach have not seen any evidence of spread of infection. It is because of this, we can make an informed and safe decision to facilitate more access,” he said.

Maternity hospitals and the HSE “remained committed to facilitating the support partner of a woman attending for antenatal care or childbirth, to be present to the greatest extent possible.”

When there were controls in place, it was “to manage the risk of spread of infection and to keep babies and mothers safe,” a statement said.

On Thursday, it was announced that restrictions on partners attending appointments at the Rotunda maternity hospital in Dublin were to be removed from the beginning of November.

The Rotunda said it was planning to return to “pre-Covid” access to appointments for patients and their partners as the country enters the next stage of living with the disease.

It said that from next Monday partners would be able to attend booking visit appointments and appointments in the hospital’s high-risk clinic. From November 1st, the hospital would “remove remaining restrictions for partners for other antenatal outpatient appointments”.

The hospital said it reviewed and risk assessed its Covid-19 safety measures each week, while taking into account rates of infection in the community, vaccination rates amongst patients and the hospital’s “unique infrastructural challenges”.

“We have already restored access similar to pre-pandemic levels in most areas of the hospital, including early pregnancy scans, anomaly scans, the emergency and assessment unit, and our inpatient wards,” the hospital said in a statement.

It said many of the Rotunda’s outpatient areas were “in older buildings with very small waiting areas” and in order to manage potential overcrowding in those areas it “strongly encouraged” patients to attend outpatient appointments alone. It recommended that women only bring partners for “occasional visits, such as if you have a complicated or special issue to discuss with your care team”.

The Rotunda said that at times when there is high footfall, partners could be asked to “wait outside the building until called to the consultation room”. It added that it was important to remember that Covid-19 “has not gone away and is in fact endemic within our community”.