I would like to assure the Deputy that I am very aware of the distress that the current restrictions in maternity services have caused, as are all those involved in the provision of maternity services across the country. All service providers look forward to the restoration of normal visiting and the accommodation of partners, when it is safe to do so.
However, the reality is that we are still experiencing high levels of infection across the country, the health service remains under pressure and there remains a considerable risk that Ireland will experience a further wave of infection. In that context, it is important to note that the restrictions in maternity services are designed to protect mothers, babies and staff.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has issued guidance regarding attendance at acute hospitals during the pandemic, including attendance at maternity hospitals. The guidance advises that restrictions on partner visiting; accompanying persons in labour; or parents visiting neonatal intensive care units, should be based on a documented risk assessment that is regularly reviewed. Given the current level of community transmission, and the risk that the virus will be imported into maternity hospitals, all maternity hospitals are reviewing their visiting restrictions on a weekly basis, with some undertaking reviews daily. In that regard, I am advised that the National Women & Infants Health Programme has, and will, continue to engage with the Clinical Leads for Maternity Services/Women’s Health in each Hospital Group and the Directors of Midwifery in each maternity unit.