AIMS Ireland have campaigned for evidenced based risk assessments to justify maternity care restrictions since they were first introduced in March 2020. We have been inundated with requests from maternity service users to advocate for the removal of restrictions which have caused such additional physical emotional and perinatal mental health distress at what is already a vulnerable time for pregnant and labouring people and their families.
With the easing of restrictions for personal care services and the vaccination program for healthcare workers now complete for maternity care staff countrywide AIMS Ireland are seeking an assurance from the Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly that there will be a clear road map for the easing of maternity restrictions in Ireland.
Speaking today AIMSI Chair Krysia Lynch said, “We hope to see a display of strong leadership from the Minister of Health with respect to the easing of maternity care restrictions. These have been in place for a long time without publicly transparent risk assessments to back them. It is time to move forwards. We propose a five step plan which will enable change in a uniform, evidenced based and safe way. The hurt, distress and upset caused to so many will be felt for years to come and it’s time to limit any further harm by reevaluating and easing maternity care restrictions.”
AIMS Ireland proposes the following five step approach and demand clear leadership from both the Minister of Health and the National Women and Infants Health Program
1. Change hospital visiting policies to ensure that the partners of pregnant and birthing people are not labelled as a “visitor”.
2. Commitment from all hospital groups, maternity hospitals and maternity units to remove maternity care restrictions on a phased basis within the next four weeks.
3. That the Minister and the HSE issue targets, guidelines and protocols for all maternity hospitals and maternity units with a clear timeline for the lifting of maternity care restrictions.
4. That the Minister and the HSE require that maternity units and maternity hospitals unable to comply with the timeline, targets and guidelines publish the results of a risk assessment process indicating why the removal of every restriction imposed since March 2020 cannot be complied with.
That the Minister further ensure that maternity units and maternity hospitals unable to comply are supported with appropriate timely capital and infrastructural investment to enable their compliance.
5. That the Minister insist that ongoing transparent risk assessments be carried out and safety measures in place be regularly audited. Finally, that he puts in place mechanisms to ensure that these audits are easily accessible and communicated to service users.
Krysia Lynch continued “A unified approach to the removal of maternity care restrictions is vital. We should not have a situation whereby some service users are not able to avail of partner support due to their location within the country. Equity of access to services is one of the key stakeholder issues we continually face. Our National Maternity Strategy was supposed to ensure equity of access and a unified maternity care service. Covid 19 restrictions was one of the first tests as to how well maternity units were able to respond”
“Finally, it’s important to focus on the evidence and proper risk assessments which take into account the short, medium and long term risk of maintaining or removing each restriction, both for parents, babies and staff. There has been no response to our repeated requests for the risk assessments associated with restrictions. Some of these restrictions appear to make no sense at all. For example, enabling pregnant people to have a partner on one side of a corridor (in the postnatal ward), but not on the other side of the corridor (the early labour ward).”
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