Access guidelines changing for maternity units

The guidelines regarding access to maternity wards for fathers and other support partners are changing at the end of the month.

According to new HSE guidelines obtained by Fianna Fail, from November 1 support partners will have “open access” to the maternity ward at Midlands Regional Hospital Mullingar and other maternity units around the country from 8am to 9pm.

When it comes to enforcing the guidelines, the HSE says that “it is important to apply the time cut offs with consideration for the needs of the patient and their nominated support partner in particular when people are anxious or distressed and the clinical situation is changing rapidly”.

“ In circumstances where there is a need for a nominated support partner to be present between 9pm and 8am because delivery is anticipated or because of distressing circumstances every effort should be made to ensure that the woman is accommodated in a single [room] both to provide privacy and to facilitate 24 hour access for a nominated support partner.”

The new guidelines also state that partners should be not be excluded from deliveries by Caesarean section as “the Covid 19 related risks do not differ materially” from vaginal deliveries.

When it comes to ante-natal care, the new guidelines say that “a nominated support partner should be welcome to attend at the 12-week and 20-week scans, early pregnancy assessment unite attendances, unscheduled attendance including attendance at emergency services and other antenatal appointments or attendances if there is reason to anticipate that the attendance is likely to be associated with particular stress or to involve communication of particular emotional significance. It is important to take a person centred approach to recognising contexts in which the presence of a nominated support person is required".

The changes, which are scheduled to come into effect from November 1, have been welcomed by Minister of State Robert Troy.

“I strongly welcome this confirmation. It was an issue I raised repeatedly with Minister Donnelly and I am glad that a uniformed approach is being taken.

"It was an inequitable situation where some maternity hospitals were facilitating partners more than others. Women need the support of their partners at this time,” he said.