‘Overcrowding and vaccination rates’ behind differences in maternity hospital restrictions

‘Overcrowding And Vaccination Rates’ Behind Differences In Maternity Hospital Restrictions
The National Maternity Hospital is allowing unrestricted visits for partners of pregnant women. Photo: PA
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By Cate McCurry, PA

Differences in infrastructure in maternity units, overcrowding and vaccination rates are some of the reasons why hospitals have not eased restrictions on visitor guidelines, it has been claimed.

Peter Boylan, former master of the National Maternity Hospital (NMH), said the hospital is allowing unrestricted visits for partners of pregnant women because of a “huge” amount of development in recent years.

The Holles Street hospital confirmed there will be unrestricted access given to one partner of a pregnant woman in labour, attending an inpatient appointment, attending the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit and the 20-week scan.

This move comes days after Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital’s said that restrictions have not been eased because of the low vaccination rates among pregnant women and their partners.

Dr Boylan said while he is “pleased” to see the changes in Holles Street, the fundamental differences between both hospitals mean the Rotunda cannot make the same changes.

He said that demographics, vaccinations and overcrowding are among some of the factors.

“That’s a microcosm of the position between hospitals around the country and that’s the reason why some hospitals are having difficulty in allowing visitors and allowing accompanying people in,” he told Newstalk.

“There are some fundamental differences between the Rotunda and Holles Street which is worth emphasising to explain the ability of Holles to ease things. Whereas, the Rotunda has more difficulties.

“The Rotunda is 275 years old, whereas the National Maternity Hospital, which was built in the 1930s and the 1970s, has had a huge amount of development in recent years.


“A new neonatal natal intensive care unit with a lot of single cubicles, there are new labour rooms and more coming on stream later this year, new operating theatres, new emergency department, new foetal medicine unit, the post-natal wards have been updated.

“It is the only maternity unit in the country with a dedicated MRI scanner.

“The average age of women attending the Rotunda is 27, whereas in the Holles it is 34. More than 70 per cent of women attending Holles Street have been vaccinated, and only 40 per cent in the Rotunda.


“There is approximately 2,000 more deliveries in the Rotunda compared to Holles Street.

“There are a lot of reasons for different infrastructural deficiencies for restricting visits, the way they have to do in Rotunda whereas Holles has improved its infrastructure more significantly.”

He urged all women to get vaccinated.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns said the decision by the NMH to ease restrictions was “hugely positive”, and urged other maternity hospitals to follow suit.

“Pregnant people are not asking for the wholesale lifting of restrictions. They just want their partners to be able to accompany them for important milestones during their pregnancy,” Ms Cairns added.

“This is something that should have been facilitated as far back as May, when Nphet advised there was no public health reason for the continuation of restrictions at maternity hospitals.

“For months, the approach adopted by maternity hospitals has been restrictive, confusing, inconsistent and contradictory. Persistent claims by government, and HSE officials, that restrictions were being lifted have been proven wrong on every occasion.


“What the NMH has done is to release clear guidance which demonstrates that it is possible to retain safety protocols at maternity hospitals while exercising compassion for patients.

“This is all women, and their partners, have been asking for.”


Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty said: “I have been in communication with the HSE on the hugely problematic maternity restrictions throughout the pandemic and I want to see further progress on this as soon as possible.

“It is simply unsustainable and not acceptable for the various maternity units across the country to be taking different approaches to this matter. We cannot continue with this postcode lottery for pregnancies.

“In particular, partners or support people must be allowed proper access to the 20-week anomaly scan.

“This is a very important moment during a pregnancy and unfortunately for some, can cause great distress.”

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