Press Release from AIMS Ireland – Maternity Care Restrictions
6th October 2021
AIMS Ireland calls upon Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly to publish the risk assessments underpinning the continuing maternity care restrictions for partners in labour and during other parts of the maternity care experience.
AIMS Ireland has been participating in key dialogue meetings with HSE Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control Team, The Chief Clinical officer and The National Women’s and Infants and Health Program, with a view to understanding the current restrictions and informing the effects of the restrictions from a patient experience perspective.
Whilst some units (such as the National Maternity Hospital), have ensured the continuous support of a nominated birth partner all the way through labour, other units are not even compliant with the current guidance.
AIMS Ireland understands that the HSE are carrying out site visits to non-compliant maternity units to investigate the refusal and failure to comply with national guidance, and this is very welcome.
However, in light of continuing anger and frustration amongst advocates and pregnant people and their partners, AIMS Ireland asks for the publication of the risk assessments that continue to underpin the persistence of these inhumane restrictions.
Speaking today Chair of AIMS Ireland, Krysia Lynch asked the following questions, “What is the quantifiable difference in risk of a partner attending a postnatal mixed bed setting (enabled in the guidance), versus an antenatal mixed bed setting (not enabled in the guidance)? Secondly, what is the quantifiable difference in risk between different bed settings? For example, is it twice as risky to enable a partner to enter a two-person antenatal room as a one-person antenatal room?”
“What are the key risk indicators that need to be lower for restrictions to be completely removed and what is the figure for each key risk indicator? How often are these key risk indicators audited at the hospital, hospital group level and national level so that the public can be assured a transparent continued process of risk evaluation is taking place? Finally, Why is the risk of not having a partner present not included in any risk assessment?”
Krysia Lynch continued “AIMS Ireland have been auditing the rates of increasing interventions over the last 12 months and they make for very difficult reading. For example, we know that c birth rates and rates of induction of labour, both significant interventions with often physical and emotional repercussions for mother and sometimes baby, have increased significantly during the restriction period, especially for first-time mothers. The latest available figures of first time mother c birth rates at CUMH stands at 43.5% and in February, the first time mother induction rate was 51.3%, with Kerry at 51.4%. Women often tell us that they accepted the offer of interventions because they did not have a partner to support them or to advocate for them or to discuss options with, Yet it appears the HSE are not interested in these outcomes”.
AIMS Ireland also urges the HSE to input Medium and Long term risks of partner separation into their risk assessments. These factors cover a wide range of perinatal mental health problems not just for the mother, but also for the baby going forward and if unaddressed will require significant investment from the State in the future in terms of support services for parents and children.
AIMS Ireland understands that the current “rule of thumb” with respect to current restrictions is based on the perception of low vaccination rates among pregnant people and reported high ICU admissions of pregnant people or recently pregnant people in addition to fears surrounding multiple bed spaces.
With respect to these issues, we call on the government to ensure that the vaccination data with respect to pregnant people are accurate. We have grave concerns that they are grossly underestimated at present, partly due to the cyberattack on the HSE and partially due to the way these data are collected.
We urge the HSE to offer eligible pregnant people AND THEIR PARTNERS an opportunity to be vaccinated at the 12 and 21-week appointments/scans. The changing information surrounding vaccination in pregnancy has confused and worried pregnant people. Offering vaccination directly as part of the maternity continuum would alleviate some of the confusion and worry.
Pregnant people and their partners cannot understand why antigen testing has not been employed as a means to offer unlimited access to partners. This approach has been employed with great success in many other jurisdictions. We call on the HSE to clearly explain why this has not been adopted and why there are no plans to adopt it in the future.
AIMS Ireland Chair Krysia Lynch concluded, “If vaccination rates amongst pregnant people and ICU admissions of pregnant people or recently pregnant people are the main markers the HSE and NWIHP and hospital managers are looking at to restrict partner support, then these figures should be made public and transparent so that pregnant people can understand the continuing reluctance and rationale our government is using not to give them their internationally recognised birthing rights back.”
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1. AIMS Ireland is a Voluntary Organisation and Charity founded in 2007 that offers support and information to pregnant people and others using the Irish Maternity Services. AIMS Ireland campaigns for evidenced based care and has been an instrumental service user representative in the National Maternity Strategy Steering Group, The National Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Strategy Steering Group, The National Standards for Safer Better Maternity Care and The National Maternity Experience Survey.
2. AIMS Ireland have continuously campaigned for a removal for any maternity care restrictions that do not have a concrete evidence base or which are not part of a robust risk assessment.
3. Figures for birth interventions in the 19 Irish Maternity Units are transparently and publicly available online as part of the National Patient Safety Statements.