Dublin’s Rotunda maternity hospital has defended ongoing restrictions on partners attending with patients, saying there has recently been “a significant increase” in pregnant women contracting “severe” Covid-19 infections.
It said only 39 per cent of its inpatients and 41 per cent of visiting partners were fully vaccinated at present.
“Therefore, with 60 per cent of our patients and their partners not fully being vaccinated, this represents a very serious risk and a very different setting to that seen in other general hospitals and the wider community,” the hospital said in a statement last night.
Dr Peter McKenna, Health Service Executive (HSE) clinical director of women and infants health, last week said the Covid-19 Delta variant was “more aggressive” when it came to affecting pregnant women, who were making up a “disproportionate” number of those hospitalised with the disease and in intensive care in recent weeks.
Amid criticism of restrictions on partners attending maternity hospitals, fresh HSE guidance was issued to maternity hospitals last week saying partners can accompany pregnant women for 12-week scans and for caesarean sections.
It said the aim of the new guidance was to try to return to pre-pandemic visiting rights and that partners who were incorrectly denied entry to hospitals recently had received apologies.
Health officials have said maternity hospitals would have to provide explanations for situations where guidance on visits for partners was not followed.
The Rotunda is currently allowing partners to attend early pregnancy scanning up to 12 weeks and anomaly scans, but said it cannot accommodate unrestricted visiting at other times. “We always strive to accommodate partners if there are individual extenuating circumstances, as we have done throughout the pandemic,” it said.
It said its building is 275 years old and it is “not possible” to ensure the minimum one metre physical distance in many inpatient and outpatient areas.
“The current restrictions on some attendances by companions in certain areas of the hospital is an attempt to reduce the footfall in these areas and to reduce the amount of people our patients come into contact with while in the hospital,” it said, adding that rates of Covid-19 infection were particularly high among the under-30s, which would account for a significant proportion of its patients.
“Therefore, not only are our patients more likely to be unvaccinated, and less likely to be able to physically distance while in the hospital, they are also disproportionately more likely to be affected by Covid-19 infection.”
The hospital said it had “sought to ease our Covid-19 restrictions as it became safe to do so” over the course of the pandemic. “We are committed to these efforts, but presently it is not yet safe to ease our restrictions fully at the Rotunda.”