Ease of restrictions at Maternity Units

From: Department of Health
Sent: Tuesday 13 October 2020 09:56
To: Brendan Smith <Brendan.Smith@oireachtas.ie>
Subject: HEA-MO-03397-2020


13th October 2020

Dear Deputy Smith,

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding restrictions in maternity services.

With regard to the presence of husbands or partners to maternity appointments, labour wards and delivery theatres, it is of course desirable that the impact of Covid-19 on the pregnancy and birthing experience of women and their families is kept to an absolute minimum.  In that regard the National Women & Infants Health Programme has provided assurance that the midwifery and obstetric community are acutely aware of the important support provided by partners or companions and that they wish to facilitate this as far as possible.

Maternity services are a core, essential service and as such need to be able to provide 24/7 care to all women requiring it as the country continues to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it should be noted that in the context of the current public health emergency, each of our 19 maternity units/hospitals are facing significant challenges. Such challenges may vary considerably between units and, indeed, over time as the situation evolves. In that context, and in line with clinical advice issued by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, an individual unit or hospital may, under certain circumstances, be forced to restrict access of partners to maternity appointments, labour wards and delivery theatres.  It is important to remember that these restrictions are put in place to minimise the risk of spread of Covid-19 in the community and to protect hospital staff and patients as much as possible.

Decisions on any restrictions in hospitals are made, implemented and reviewed at hospital level and, while any restrictions are very regrettable, are necessary to protect the safety of patients, the wellbeing of staff and the operability of our maternity services. However, you can be assured that in the context of what is a rapidly evolving situation, such restrictions will be frequently reviewed and reversed as soon as possible.

In that regard, restrictions have eased somewhat in certain hospitals in recent weeks and it is hoped that this will continue.  However, the recent rise in the numbers of people infected with the virus, including healthcare workers, is very worrying and may impact on the pace of the easing of restrictions.

Additionally, the National Women & Infants Health Programme has developed a guidance document on restrictions in maternity hospitals/units and this has recently issued to all maternity services. The paper seeks to ensure a consistent national approach to visitor restrictions, as far as is practicable and having due regard to local circumstances.   Each maternity service/network has been requested to review visiting arrangements on a weekly basis, in the context of the issues and factors identified in the paper.

I hope this information can be of assistance to you.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Donnelly T.D.

Minister for Health