None of the State’s 19 maternity hospitals are fully compliant with the HSE’s pandemic guidelines on partner visits, a campaign group has claimed.
The group Better Maternity Care has called on the Government to announce a detailed road map for maternity services by the end of August.
It comes as HSE boss Paul Reid admitted that some maternity hospitals will find it “impossible” to comply fully with the Covid-19 guidelines.
Better Maternity Care conducted a fact check which found no maternity hospital is compliant with all eight areas specified by the HSE in which visitation is allowed.
— Linda Kelly (@lindabtweeting) August 12, 2021
The fact check has been cross-referenced with restriction notices from each of the 19 hospitals.
Campaigner Linda Kelly, of the union Fórsa, who herself gave birth under Covid-19 restrictions, said: “It’s simply not possible to continue with this charade of compliance where the HSE says one thing, hospitals do another and women, their partners and their families are left to navigate the mess.
“Our fact check reveals that all 19 maternity units are failing to meet the minimum standard of care set out in the HSE guidelines in one or more areas.
“The areas with the highest levels of non-compliance are emergency presentations and high risk antenatal clinics.”
Under HSE guidelines, visits should be permitted for no less than 30 minutes at the 12-week and 20-week scan, at early pregnancy assessment units, at emergency presentations during pregnancy, for women considered to have high risk pregnancies, throughout the process of labour and childbirth, and at neonatal intensive care units.
Campaigner Caroline Cumming has called on the HSE to start delivering solutions.
She said: “It’s really important that this doesn’t continue and that we get all stakeholders together to discuss real solutions like Covid testing for partners, the use of antigen testing, relocation of antenatal clinics.
“Whatever it takes to ensure that partners are no longer excluded from the maternity journey.”
Emma Carroll, a first-time mother who gave birth in April 2020, said: “The HSE have repeatedly said that if a hospital isn’t complying with the guidelines then they must publish the risk assessments underpinning those decisions.
“We have yet to see any risk assessment published from any unit.
“This lack of transparency is really problematic and highlights the poor oversight and governance of maternity services in Ireland.”
But HSE chief executive Mr Reid has warned that it will be “impossible” for some hospitals to fully comply with the guidelines.
Speaking on Thursday, he said that maternity hospitals in Ireland have “very real safety concerns”.
Mr Reid said that the particular design and infrastructure of some maternity hospitals, including the Rotunda in Dublin, made it very difficult to fully comply with all HSE guidelines.
“We have asked the hospitals to be up front and communicate with us when they do a risk assessment,” Mr Reid told an HSE briefing on Thursday.
The latest HSE figures indicate that 14 out of 19 hospitals will be “fully compliant” with all guidelines by this weekend, HSE national director of the acute hospitals division Liam Woods told the briefing.
Mr Woods said: “Most maternity hospitals are reporting as compliant with all requirements, including the extended ones. There are some exceptions.
“Of the 19, 14 will be fully compliant by this weekend.
“There’s a couple where they’re making physical space changes.
“We’ve two or three sites that will continue to have physical infrastructure problems,” he said.