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HSE changes its Covid-19 policy to allow partners to attend 20-week scan

The HSE has announced updates to their Covid-19 guidelines to allow for partners of pregnant people to be allowed to attend the 20-week scan. The measure that prevented partners from attending the scans were originally introduced as precaution in hospitals. Amber Baxter reports on what this means for those affected.

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It is expected the HSE will ask maternity facilities to allow partners to visit for anomaly scans if possible.

Emails and letters from people and their partners to the government have been released to Aontú leader and Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín following a Freedom of Information request (FOI). He described their content as “harrowing” and “deeply distressing”.

A letter sent to Taoiseach Micheál Martin which was forwarded to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on the 30th of September stated that the Taoiseach asked his colleague if the “points raised could be examined” and if he could “advise me [Martin] of the position”. 

The letter sent to the Taoiseach was from one woman who said she was left “exasperated” by the restrictions after going through the “heartbreaking, gut-wrenching” event of a missed miscarriage at 8 weeks. 

The woman wrote in her letter: “Can you please tell me why I am able to eat a meal with women I have not seen in months, but my husband who I live with is not allowed to be there when I am told the most devastating news that a pregnant woman can hear?”

Under the current guidelines, partners are allowed in for births but not for scans or emergency procedures. The news comes after hundreds of people and their partners wrote to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Taoiseach Micheál Martin. A petition organised against the restrictions by campaign group, Uplift, has gathered 52,000 signatures and was handed into Cork University Hospital last week.

Tóibín said, “During a six-week period over 170 emails were sent to the Minister for Health, the majority of them from women outlining their shocking experiences in maternity hospitals as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions.”

He continued, “We must remember that one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage in this country. No woman should be left to face this bad news alone, in a hospital corridor without a partner to support her.”

Alan Kelly, Labour Leader, also called on the Government last month to consider modifying the restrictions on partners not being allowed to accompany or visit expectant mothers during and after pregnancy.

Holly Smith, an expectant mother, told TheCity.ie: “People should be able to support their partners in person. Thankfully I was not in a position where I received bad news on my own but there are hundreds of women who are going to their scans not knowing what will happen.”

She continued, “Partners and fathers shouldn’t have to receive bad news alone in a hospital car park on the phone.”

Another of the letters from one woman who experienced a miscarriage read: “I had to sit in a room alone to be told my baby had died. I was sent from this room alone reeling from what I had just heard and left to sit on a busy ward corridor sobbing alone,

“This is simply unacceptable. At no point was I allowed to have my husband present to provide any sort of comfort. I sat for hours alone and broken in one of your maternity hospitals. Not a single person to offer me the comfort I craved and needed.”

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