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HSE may facilitate virtual role for partners at key maternity moments

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Partners will be able to take part in women’s key maternity appointments virtually, under plans being considered by the Health Service Executive following complaints that women are facing difficult moments alone.

However, a new document drawn up by the HSE offers little immediate hope that partners will soon be able to be physically present for appointments, such as the 20-week scan.

Every maternity service will be asked to review rules weekly, but HSE clinical director of the women’s and infants’ programme Peter McKenna said some women will inevitably be disappointed.

“Is this the last word on the subject? The answer is no, it can’t be,” he told The Irish Times, but “the situation could be different in a couple of weeks’ time if conditions improve”.

‘Distressing news’

Maternity Covid-19 rules have adapted to help women hearing distressing news so that they have support, he said: “[But] we have to be very conscious that we have not fulfilled people’s expectations all of the time.”

The HSE will examine if it is “possible to have a telelink with a partner via a smartphone or camera. Although the partner may not be physically in the room it can be pointed out, ‘This is what we are looking at here, this looks good, etc.’

“It is something which I think is certainly worth exploring,” he said. “It could almost be as simple as the woman putting her smartphone on. We will have to see what can be done.”

Lifting of restrictions

The new, as-yet unpublished guidance states it is “not possible” for the HSE to say when existing Covid-19 visiting restrictions can be lifted. Decisions will be made by individual hospitals.

Restrictions could ease by degrees if virus numbers fall, it goes on: “However, the lifting of restrictions during a pandemic must be done with extreme care in each of the 19 maternity services.”

Key staff must be protected. If some scanning staff fall ill and others have to self-isolate “that is the end of scanning for everybody. That is not a threat; that is the reality. So far, we have done pretty well in keeping it out,” said Dr McKenna.

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