'It is essential — for women’s mental and physical health': Fresh calls for end to maternity care restrictions

'It is essential — for women’s mental and physical health': Fresh calls for end to maternity care restrictions

Holly Cairns TD said that the Minister for Health must immediately clarify why restrictions on partners at maternity hospitals are still in place.

CORK campaigners for better maternity care have reiterated their calls for end to “barbaric” restrictions around maternity care following a recent policy revision.

Uplift members, who have come together to create the Better Maternity Care campaign have called out a recent policy revision by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), describing it as an underhanded attempt by the HSE and the Minister for Health to backtrack on what was publicly promised.

According to guidance from the HPSC on the visitation to Acute Hospitals, on May 31, revised wording was issued “to reflect benefits of significant vaccine protection,” and clarification was provided to state that “accompanying a person on labour and childbirth is intended to mean throughout the process.”

Further clarification was provided on June 11, stating that accompanying a person on a labour and childbirth “throughout the process” is intended to mean while the woman is in the labour ward.

Cork mother and campaigner Linda Kelly said: “The Minister made a clear statement weeks ago that the restrictions on partners attending for labour, and throughout the pregnancy journey should be lifted.

“Yet recent policy revision by the HPSC show that these barbaric restrictions are being maintained across the 19 maternity units/hospitals.”

Speaking to The Echo, Ms Kelly said they want to see a timed exit from the partner restrictions in maternity services.

“All staff are vaccinated. Community transmission is stable and a lot of the women attending services are now vaccinated, a lot of partners are vaccinated, and we want to see an end to their exclusion from services.”

Holly Cairns TD said that the Minister for Health must immediately clarify why restrictions on partners at maternity hospitals are still in place. She said that despite the Chief Medical Officer stating there was no public health justification for restrictions on partners at maternity hospitals, “nothing has changed”.

“If anything, the situation has gotten worse,” she said. Ms Cairns said that the presence of a partner, to support women during labour, “is not some kind of perk.”

“It is essential — for women’s mental and physical health. It is also hugely important for partners to be present for one of the most momentous occasions of their lives.”

A spokesperson for the HSE said that the clarification issued on June 11 is intended to align the practice of partners’ attendance in labour to the practice that was in place prior to the pandemic.

“Existing infrastructure does not cater for partners’ presence at all times during labour or induction as this may take place in multi-occupancy wards when the privacy and needs of other women are to be considered.”

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