UL Hospitals Group is pleased to announce an important step in the ongoing relaxation of COVID-19 access restrictions at University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL), with partners now being permitted to accompany women for appointments in the hospital’s Early Pregnancy Access Unit (EPAU) from this Thursday July 8th.
UL Hospitals Group Director of Midwifery, Eileen Ronan, said that the EPAU was an important service that provides timely access to consultation with a midwife, an obstetrician and an ultrasonographer for women who experience irregularities during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
“Women who need to make an appointment with our EPAU often feel particularly stressed and concerned about their pregnancy, and we are pleased to be able to help provide additional reassurance by once again facilitating their nominated partners to attend with them,” Ms Ronan said.
The move comes just a week after the introduction of 45-minute visiting slots for partners of women on the hospital’s ante-natal ward, M3, from 6-9pm daily.
“The restrictions on access to University Maternity Hospital Limerick are an emergency public health measure, taken to protect our patients, their loved ones, vulnerable new-born babies, and our maternity healthcare staff from the very real and present threat of COVID-19,” Ms Ronan said.
Ms Ronan continued: “These are restrictions that no maternity unit management team wish to introduce. Pregnancy and childbirth are joyful times at which familial togetherness should be facilitated. But the prevalence of COVID-19, and the disease’s highly contagious Delta variant, means that we are unable to provide as much access to the hospital as we would like for partners and loved ones of the women and infants in our care.”
In recognition of the importance of maximising contact between parents and infants, while working to safeguard all patients, infants, partners and staff from the threat of COVID-19, UMHL has since late April been engaged in a gradual relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions on access that have been in place at the hospital throughout the pandemic.
Since then, UMHL has introduced 45-minute visiting slots on the hospital’s postnatal words, M1 and M2, from 6pm-8pm daily. All mothers on M1 and M2 are offered this daily scheduled visit for their nominated partners, including on day of delivery.
We also offer the option to have nominated partners present for anomaly scans, and visiting for fathers/parents of babies in the neonatal unit. All nominated partners must adhere to the wearing of face masks, observe hand hygiene and social distancing. Temperature monitoring is in place at the main reception, along with the completion of a COVID-19 screening questionnaire.
Visiting on compassionate grounds continues to be facilitated, as it has been throughout the pandemic, and we also continue to support the attendance of birthing partners in the Labour Ward and Theatre.
The recent introduction of visiting on the antenatal ward M3 and now the facilitation of partners to accompany women for EPAU appointments are important steps in an ongoing process, and fulfil the objectives of the national guidance on access to maternity hospitals, which seeks to balance the competing requirements for partners to be present and support women, while giving priority to the safety, welfare and privacy of all women and infants in our care, and our staff.
In taking decisions to implement or relax restrictions, UMHL has regard to three primary factors: the rate of COVID transmission within the local community, the number of staff in the hospital and the possibility of those staff becoming unwell, and the infrastructure of the hospital site. More recently, we particularly note the concerns nationally and internationally about the transmissibility of the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
We continue to review the access situation at UMHL on a weekly basis, to plan for the safe, controlled and phased relaxation of restrictions, and to ensure all processes are safely introduced and managed.