AIMS Ireland Seeks clarity on Health Minister’s request for compliance from Ireland’s 19 maternity units

AIMS Ireland welcomes the news that the Minister of Health has requested an immediate assurance from all 19 maternity units, that partners of pregnant people will be facilitated to accompany them for a 20 week anomaly scan.

This is a move in the right direction, but it by no means encompasses the primary need of birthing people. The primary need of birthing people is that they will be accompanied throughout the duration of their labour by a partner of their choosing. This includes medical induction (currently averaging 35%), and what hospital clinicians like to call “early labour”. 

Speaking today Krysia Lynch, Chair of AIMS Ireland stated, “It is during early labour and medical induction that labouring people are most likely to feel stressed, concerned and alone. Having a partner with you when you enter the hospital in labour completely alters your outlook, and enables you  to feel physically and emotionally supported. You also feel confident that someone is there to advocate for you.” 

“Labouring women do not understand why they are told by clinical staff that they are not in labour and that they cannot have their partner with them when they are getting full-on contractions every three minutes lasting a minute. The experience is extremely distressing and difficult at what is already a vulnerable time. A very narrow definition of “labour and childbirth” has been consistently used by the 19 maternity units throughout the pandemic to deny people partner support during many hours and even days of early labour and medical induction.”

Protestors and those who have contacted us in their thousands are demanding an end to all restrictions, not just scans and ward visits. They want an end to unaccompanied antenatal appointments, to unaccompanied labours and to unaccompanied terminations losses and unscheduled visits to the ER department.

We have heard from the Taoiseach, the Minister of Health, the CMO and the CEO of the HSE in recent days that the restrictions should stop, yet they haven’t.

The AIMS Chair continued, “We would like to know if the Minister has the authority to compel the 19 maternity units to comply with the easing of restrictions that currently prevent a woman from having the partner of her choice with her at all antenatal appointments and throughout the full duration of her labour and birth. Currently it would appear that the individual units are a law unto themselves, beholden to no on one”. 

“The  Minister continues to offer the 19 units a “get out of jail card” if they don’t  lift any restrictions.  We would like the Minister to clearly state (with the accompanying evidence), what are the specific grounds identified by the HSE and the Department of Health on which a maternity unit is justified in continuing to implement these restrictions for service users. It is our suspicion that these restrictions have their roots in a repeated continuous and historical lack of funding for maternity care in Ireland despite the presence of our National Maternity Strategy.”

We need leadership, governance, accountability and some degree of uniformity across all units with clear compliance to a national guideline. Currently, restrictions in maternity units vary around the country.

As to anomaly scans, some units will not have to make a return to Minister Donnelly, as they have never offered pregnant people routine anomaly scans. A prime example is Limerick Maternity Hospital. 

Our protests will continue on Thursday 13th May at Wexford General, Sligo General and Waterford General, with further protests planned for Friday and Sunday if there is no shift in the lifting of these critical restrictions.


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