Sinn Féin TD for Co. Clare Violet-Anne Wynne has challenged the lack of clarity around the sustained maternity restrictions in many of the 19 maternity units across the country.
Expecting her 6th child, Teachta Wynne said:
“The Taoiseach and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly have effectively washed their hands of the ongoing maternity restrictions. They keep telling us there’s no reason that that they are still in place – but that doesn’t reflect women’s direct lived experience.
“Women continue to be separated from their partners. Birth can be extremely challenging and at times traumatic. The Minister has not shown adequate leadership on this. The Government has been trying to pretend it’s been solved for months now – this isn’t the case.
“We need more pressure from the Minister Donnelly and more pressure from the Taoiseach, on the HSE. The CMO says it needs to be fixed and the WHO says there’s no need for it.
“The restrictions seem to be operating on a postcode lottery basis, with the pretext of maternity units having to consider both infrastructural issues and local infection rates at the time. This is nonsense, Galway city has had a far higher incidence rate over the last couple of months, but they have removed most of the restrictions while other areas such as Limerick, with lower case numbers have stricter restrictions.
“After birth there are two extremely vulnerable individuals: the mother and the child, both need continuity of care that can only be offered by a nominated, trusted partner. University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) still has only two-hour visiting slots, which is simply not ok if you are recovering from a C-section and need constant emotional and physical support.
“In the maternity units themselves, nurses and midwives are completely understaffed yet are expected to miraculously provide the extra care that is needed to fill the gap of the partner – this is unbelievable.
“Last week I attended a recent Cross Party Oireachtas meeting with the ‘Better Maternity Care’ campaign drivers, and their accounts of women’s stories were beyond belief and incredibly sad.
“The Psychological Society of Ireland has been warning us for months that the social isolation being caused by these restrictions increases risks to the mental health of mothers and infants.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that the expected national average of caesarean sections should be somewhere between 10-15%, in UMHL it was almost 44% in 2020. This has severe knock-on effects for woman and infant health.
“At a time when most of society has evolved to deal with the risk that Covid-19 presents, there needs to be a return to pre-pandemic levels of partner presence across all maternity units. Why isn’t the vaccination status of partners being taken into consideration? Why isn’t antigen testing being piloted? Why isn’t there more being done to protect women’s and babies’ rights?
“I have been raising this issue for months now and I am very disappointed with the lack of priority that this issue has received thus far from Government. I’m speaking out not only as a public representative, but as a woman in her 2nd trimester who is now in the anxious space with every other pregnant woman who does not know what level of support or care to expect. It’s not good enough that addressing the care needs of women, during the extreme challenge that birth represents, is being left until last – again. Our women and babies deserve more and enough is enough.”