This is not the first time I have spoken about this issue. I addressed it last Monday. Senator Flynn told us of her happy news on that occasion and I wish her well.
The Minister of State is welcome to the House. I certainly hope he can bring some clarity to the issue about which I am speaking today. There is a need for the lifting of restrictions on appointments, labours and visits to neonatal wards in maternity hospitals. We often think of the Coombe, Hollis Street and the Rotunda as the three maternity hospitals in Ireland and while they are the main three, there are another 16 maternity units around the country. On average, 62,000 children are born every year. I estimate approximately 70,000 babies have been born since Covid-19 came upon our shores. It is sad that we have had approximately 14,000 miscarriages in that period of time. Pregnancies are generally happy and joyful occasions for mums and their partners although they are not without their stresses and worries, particularly for those who may have had difficult experiences previously. Partners have not been allowed into hospitals for scans and have only been allowed in for the very end of labour. For many women, that end of labour has come quite quickly and their partner has not made it in and that has made for difficult times. One mum of four, a strong and feisty lady, said to me that when she gave birth to those children, a big thing was that she felt she had an advocate there. She was giving away control and power and needed somebody who was there solely for her.
Every woman I have met has spoken in glowing terms about the maternity services, the midwives, the doctors and the nurses. This is not about that; this is about the help and the support that needs to be given at a difficult time. I was emailed by one lady about having a miscarriage last year and how difficult it was for her to hear of it in a hospital setting. She had to go back out and within a matter of 20 minutes to explain and go through all of those emotions again with her partner who had not been there with her to listen to that.
Two ladies, Emma and Ciara, have set up this amazing Facebook page, In Our Shoes, and the stories would bring tears to a stone.
The fact that all of our hospital staff are vaccinated surely means it is time for these restrictions to be lifted. Dr. Colm Henry spoke about this and said that it would be expected that these restrictions would be lifted and Dr. Peter Boylan said the same but the problem is that there is no uniformity among our 19 maternity units. It is very clear at this point that pregnant women have suffered enough. They and their partners need the opportunity to be present for these scans, for the bad and the good news, to be present for all of labour, and to be able to attend neonatal units. I hope that the Minister of State has good news for us today because it was lacking in all of the positive good news yesterday. I thank the House.