Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly
Issues of non-compliance around high-risk emergency presentations at St Luke's Hospital maternity services have been addressed in the Seanad by the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, who says he has written to the board and chief executive of the HSE seeking reassurances on the matter.
It has emerged that the Kilkenny hospital is one of only two in the country where the issue of non-compliance remains. The minister says he is seeking for a mechanism to be put in place immediately that would facilitate mothers and partners who find themselves denied access, and that if there is non-compliance it is for a legitimate local clinical reason.
The minister was speaking in the Seanad last Wednesday, October 6. A number of senators noted the protest outside Leinster House in respect of maternity services, and called for accessto be granted to partners of women using maternity services.
Senator Barry Ward said the time had come for 'the foot to be put down in the Department' and for very clear messages to be sent to maternity hospitals 'that the guidelines are to be followed and that it is no longer acceptable to exclude partners from the maternity process, be it an early scan, birth or postnatal care'.
Minister Donnelly said Covid had resulted in restrictions across the healthcare system, which had affected mothers and their partners, nursing homes, hospital visits to people on bed wards and ICU. HPSC guidelines were updated at the start of September to facilitate access for support partners when women are attending for antenatal care, during the period of labour and childbirth and during postnatal care.
"Our clinicians have acted to try to protect mums and babies. We have to find a way to make access as full and complete as possible while protecting mums and babies," said the Minister.
Minister Donnelly said the HSE has advised that hospitals are broadly compliant with the current guidelines and that 17 of the 19 units are being reported to the Department as being fully compliant.
"Two hospitals - St Luke's in Kilkenny and Mullingar - are non-compliant. St Luke's is non-compliant for high-risk emergency presentations. Mullingar is non-compliant for high-risk emergency presentations as well, but it is noted that following a clinical assessment on a case-by-case basis attendance is facilitated where it can be determined by the clinical team," he said.
"I wrote to the board and chief executive of the HSE yesterday and today to state that we must have full compliance and ongoing and very clear monitoring of that compliance, and where there is non-compliance we must understand exactly what the local reason for that is and do everything we can to support the maternity hospital or unit in addressing that issue. However, I have gone further. I believe that the women and men outside have experienced very real and traumatic experiences.
"It is very easy for people to say that there are guidelines in place and compliance is being monitored. That is not enough. This morning I wrote to the chief executive of the HSE and board of the HSE to ask for a mechanism to be put in place immediately that would facilitate mums and partners who find themselves denied the access that is contained in the guidelines to contact the HSE to ask why access is being refused and to ask that it be followed up on. I want reassurance that if there is non-compliance, it is for a legitimate local clinical reason. If there is not a legitimate local clinical reason, we need to know about that so we can intervene."
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