"There is no good reason in public health terms why those restrictions [maternity] continue to be in place" - Dr. Tony Holohan, RTÉ News, Monday 10th May 2021.
So why are expectant mothers across the country still heading into appointments and scans alone, unsupported, and without their partners?
Expectant mothers' mental, emotional and physical health has been a cause of concern over the past year with the restrictions put in place in hospitals to stop the spread of COVID-19. The country is now beginning to open up again, however maternity restrictions continue to be in place with partners of expectant mothers still not allowed to enter some hospitals. This is not what the HSE has recommended but yet not all hospitals are following the recommendations. Some Dublin hospitals were early adapters to things like allowing partners into the 20-week scan, but other hospitals in the rest of the country are still not allowing this to happen. It's unfair and unregulated.
Countless women have been given devastating news, alone, without their support person by their side. They've laboured alone for hours on end with their partners sat just outside in the car. They've given birth alone when things have escalated and their partners couldn't make it inside in time.
Of course, there was an initial understanding of why these restrictions were in place. To protect each other and to protect our fantastic HSE staff. However, now that normality is beginning to seep back into the country, with personal services and retails stores reopening this week, it's harder to understand why these restrictions are still there. We can all go to Penneys, but we can't have our partner by our side at one of the most important moments of our lives?
A number of campaigns are attempting to address this. The #bettermaternitycare campaign published an open letter in The Irish Times newspaper over the weekend, urging members of the Irish Government and NPHET to reverse the current rules.
Part of the letter reads: "We did what you asked us to do for so long, but now you need to listen to pregnant women and people, and their families, who have carried an unequal share of the burden during the COVID-19 pandemic."
Earlier this week, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan also appeared on RTÉ One News. He said, "There is no good reason in public health terms why those restrictions continue to be in place" on a national level. There was no evidence to convince the National Public Health Emergency Team that these restrictions still need to be adhered to and "at the moment we don't think there is a justification for a continued maintenance of the policy that partners are not allowed to visit during the process of labour in maternity hospitals".
He did point out, however, that hospitals hold the right to carry out their own risk assessment. If for instance, an outbreak was to occur in a hospital or in the locality of the hospital, then restrictions may need to be put in place.
According to figures released on May 7, 1,799,190 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Ireland. 1.3 million people have received their first dose, with 494,012 people receiving their second dose.