Cork healthcare worker who experienced miscarriage speaks about impact of maternity restrictions 

Darragh Bermingham speaks with healthcare workers, including one who became a patient herself, on why partners should now be allowed to attend appointments
Cork healthcare worker who experienced miscarriage speaks about impact of maternity restrictions 

A Cork healthcare worker who had a miscarriage earlier this year has spoken of the challenges of maternity-hospital restrictions on partner attendance. Picture: iStock

A Cork healthcare worker who had a miscarriage earlier this year has spoken of the challenges of maternity-hospital restrictions on partner attendance.

Hospitals around the country introduced strict restrictions at the height of the pandemic, and while many of these have since eased, some restrictions remain around partners attending appointments and staying with a mother and baby after the birth.

There is also variation of restrictions in different hospitals.

The issue made headlines again in recent days, after outcry that RTÉ staff filmed a documentary at The Rotunda hospital, in Dublin, when significant visiting restrictions were in place.

RTÉ and the Rotunda said that strict protocols were in place during filming, with filming in delivery suites carried out remotely on pre-installed cameras.

A spokesperson for the Rotunda said that filming took place from November 2020 to September 2021 and hospital management proceeded with recording, “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”, adding “we believe that it is important to hear these stories and understand how maternity services continued to operate safely for all patients, despite the many challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and also by a cyber attack”.

In recent days, The Echo spoke to Cork GPs and healthcare workers about the restrictions, with many calling for a swift end to policies that are leaving women without the support of their partners.

One Cork healthcare worker, who was on the frontline of the pandemic for the past 18 months, said that she had first-hand, personal experience of the restrictions as a patient.

Attending scans alone

This frontline worker suffered a miscarriage earlier this year, after covering staff shortages at the height of the pandemic. She had to attend a number of scans and appointments alone, as a result of the maternity restrictions.

“I had a miscarriage while working full time at the height of the pandemic and covering staff shortages,” she said.

“I had to attend about five appointments and scans on my own; it was nerve-racking, going for those early scans on my own.

“I don’t think you need a partner with you for every appointment, but having the option is important,” she said.

Referring to the continuing restrictions, she said: “I cannot understand why these restrictions are continuing. Visitor restrictions are fine, but I don’t understand why partners are being left outside still, with such high vaccination rates.”

The healthcare worker said that the restrictions have also impacted patients she has encountered during her work.

Cork GPs critical of restrictions

A number of Cork GPs criticised the restrictions and called for a swift end to the policy in maternity hospitals.

Cork GP and Fianna Fáil councillor, Dr John Sheehan, labelled the continuation of the restrictions as “embarrassing”.

He said that with the vaccination rate so high, there is no justification for persisting with the maternity restrictions.

“Partners are not hospital visitors, they’re a huge support during what is a hugely emotional occasion and what can also be a hugely stressful and worrying time,” the former lord mayor of Cork City said.

“It’s one of those key times in life when people need that support and help.

“It’s hard to justify any reason as to why they shouldn’t be there.

“This should be sorted; it should have been sorted long ago: It’s embarrassing, really,” Dr Sheehan said.

“It’s hard to imagine a time when you need someone more.”

Dr Sheehan said that with society reopening and the vaccination rate so high, maternity hospitals, like other areas of healthcare, should adapt and allow for the attendance of partners.

“The vaccination rate is nearly as high as it’s going to be,” he said. “We need to start planning our lives now, in terms of living with Covid and getting back to some sort of normality.”

Fellow Cork GP Dr Paul O’Sullivan said that while he has sympathy for hospital management trying to ensure safety during a pandemic, there must be leeway for partner attendance at important appointments.

Dr O’Sullivan said that the vast majority of patients and partners are vaccinated, which should allow for safer attendance.

“I have sympathies with hospitals, as they have to ensure safety regarding their protocols,” said Dr O’Sullivan. “At the same time, there should be some give and take regarding patients and their partners, with regard to attending appointments for scans, follow-up, and also deliveries, especially as the majority of patients in the group are vaccinated.”

Variation in restrictions

The level of restrictions varies at different locations around the country.

In Cork, partners can attend early-pregnancy scans; the booking scan (12 weeks); the anatomy scan (between 21 and 26 weeks), when the patient is in established labour; the ward with the mother, post-delivery, for one hour; and there is unrestricted visiting from 3pm to 8pm every day.

A spokesperson for Cork University Maternity Hospital said: “Since the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, to date, Cork University Maternity Hospital has fully adhered to the national HSE guidelines regarding visiting restrictions, in the interest of patient and public safety.

“Cork University Maternity Hospital can confirm that it is fully compliant with the updated HSE guidelines.”

The spokesperson added that exceptions are made for compassionate reasons.

Details on visiting restrictions at CUMH can be found at:

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