AIMSI Statement on continuing restrictions on maternity care during Covid19

AIMSI would like to acknowledge and thank the many hundreds of you whom have been in contact with us since early March. We see you, we hear you, and we have been working hard behind the scenes to represent your experiences and needs. AIMSI is an organization run by unpaid volunteers, all mothers, like you. We are fully independent, our mission derives solely from a passion for kinder, safer and evidenced practice, person centered rights based care, and better experiences for women, girls, and other pregnant people within the maternity continuum. We feel privileged and honoured that you trust us to share your experiences, enabling us to represent and amplify your voices and needs.

Covid-19 Restrictions, decades in the making.

The Association for Improvements in maternity services Ireland, AIMS Ireland, were not surprised to see that restrictions in maternity care settings were  excluded from the National Roadmap for Ireland living with Covid-19. Having lobbied all political parties since 2007, warning of such an event, this omission is the latest in a trend of fundamental failures, by current and past Governments and health policy makers, spanning decades. 

The Irish Maternity system has been neglected and under resourced for decades. The maternity care model is not fit for purpose and hasn’t been revised in 59 years. It funnels a large volume of women, girls, and others, often traveling from outside Counties, into large centralized obstetric led units for all aspects of care. Our current system does not provide an appropriate range of care options, as highlighted in numerous reviews, and as a result, all services, and those accessing them, suffer the consequences. Any slight stress will tip the applecart, and now we have that stress in the form of COVID 19.

The failures we are experiencing today are not Covid specific. They are symptomatic of a complete lack of understanding and provision by current and past Governments to implement real change. Support of AIMSI and others in lobbying to improve the Maternity services is notoriously inconsistent. Most responses, from the public, media, and governing bodies, are fire fighting in response to a direct crisis. When things die back down, there is no political appetite for structural reform. The Maternity Strategy offered an opportunity to be proactive but this was squandered by Leo Varadkar’s government. 

AIMS Ireland calls for the immediate implementation of The Maternity Strategy and reform of the Irish Maternity services care model. The public need to get behind reform at grassroots levels like never before. We need understanding, we need more realistic engagements, we need accountability, and we need a full overhaul of the way we provide maternity services. Community based care options, satellite clinics reduce the numbers of people traveling long distances for their care. Community based options would enable social distancing with continuous partner support.

In addition, AIMSI reiterates our stance from March 2020 for current Covid restrictions to be lifted in line with evidenced based care and best practice. Named support partners are not visitors. They are one half of a joined birthing unit and internal part of the care-support team. 

AIMSI have been in direct contact with the Minister for Health (Harris and Donnelly), Department of Health, NWIHP, and numerous regional units since March 2020. We have repeatedly asked questions, supplied first hand experiences of those in contact with us, as well as sought transparency of the specific risk assessments undertaken to support the maternity restrictions since March 2020. To date, we have seen no material data to substantiate increased risk for a partner being present.

To date there has been no evidenced based risk assessment showing the removing the presence of the partner has benefits for anyone; parent or HCP. Continuance of a policy that endorses labouring alone and antenatal care alone and limited postnatal support is harmful to the mental health of all and in many cases to the physical health of mother and baby.

September 2020