‘Exhausting’ being a woman in Ireland in constant fight for health services – TD

TD hits out ongoing ‘unfair, unethical, inhumane’ restrictions on maternity visits

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times


It is exhausting being a woman in Ireland because of the constant fight for basic health services, the Dáil has been told.

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore said the restrictions on attendance by partners at maternity hospitals are “unfair, unethical and inhumane” but they remain in place in hospitals around the country “despite all the promises and commitments from the Government and the Minister for Health”.

Highlighting the ongoing row over allowing partners attend at maternity hospitals to support pregnant women, the Wicklow TD said “women still face their labour journey and suffer miscarriages without their support partners and deal with the after-effects of Caesarean sections without having supports in place.”

“It is exhausting being a woman in this country. We have to fight again and again for things that should simply come as basic services.”

Ms Whitmore asked Taoiseach Micheál Martin when the issue would finally be resolved as she questioned who was in charge when it comes to maternity services.

Ms Whitmore said Mr Martin had repeatedly stated that restrictions would be lifted “and it has not happened”.

The Taoiseach said however that “we are being told” all maternity units are compliant with current guidance.

He said in mid-May the HSE conducted a review of compliance in maternity hospitals units based on national guidance around visits and at that point 14 of the State’s 19 maternity units were compliant.

It rose to 16 last week “and I understand from a note I have to hand that the three remaining hospitals were to be fully compliant with current guidance by 21st June, last Monday.

“Consequently, If the Deputy knows of hospitals to the contrary, I will gladly take that on board. We know who is in charge from a clinical autonomy point of view in terms of maternity hospitals. It is the masters in places like the Rotunda and the Coombe.”

He added that “the HSE has issued clear guidance to all maternity units. It gave a two-week period to require all hospitals to address all local logistical issues around the guidance.”

National Maternity Hospital

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith warned that the “core issues” of governance and ownership of the national maternity hospital had not been dealt with.

Following the controversy that erupted two weeks ago over the site on which the hospital is to be built at St Vincent’s hospital in south Dublin, Ms Smith said she did not believe “the women of Ireland are reassured by recent statements and assurances from the Taoiseach and the Government”.

She said that three years after the repeal of the Eighth Amendment “we only have one in 10 GPs delivering abortion services and about half of maternity hospitals.

“This is a huge issue for marginalised women and for women in rural Ireland.”

She said that some professionals genuinely believed that all services would be available in the new hospital “but that misses the core point” around governance and control.

She said four members of the board of the new hospital will be appointed by the new St Vincent’s Holdings, the charity which the site was signed over to by the religious Sisters of Charity.

Four would be appointed by the new maternity hospital but “we have never seen the legal documents surrounding this issue and the women of Ireland need answers” and “we need an answer”.

The Taoiseach insisted however that the Government had repeatedly said all services women are entitled to avail of “will be available in the new hospital without question”.

He said that on governance “the Minister is engaging with stakeholders on stronger public interest representation on the board of the new hospital”.