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'We need a new plan' - Chu looks to ease pregnancy restrictions

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Patrick Costelloe and Hazel Chu with their daughter Alex pictured at the count centre in the RD

Patrick Costelloe and Hazel Chu with their daughter Alex pictured at the count centre in the RD

Patrick Costelloe and Hazel Chu with their daughter Alex pictured at the count centre in the RD

Dublin's Lord Mayor Hazel Chu has said that not having the support of a partner for the duration of an early pregnancy scan is one of the key restrictions that pregnant women would like to see lifted.

The Green Party councillor has been spearheading a campaign to see the capital's three maternity hospitals revise their current regulations surrounding maternity appointments and leading up to birth.

Heartbreak

Over 700 women have emailed her with their stories of heartbreak and loss after she asked for feedback on the issue.

Ms Chu has been in contact with the three hospital Masters and the Rotunda has already eased some restrictions around the anomaly scan, but the Coombe and the National Maternity Hospital have not followed suit yet.

"There is a balance here between making sure we protect our staff and frontline workers and also to make sure we support the mothers and fathers and families," Ms Chu said.

"It's a difficult journey and we have to think of the overall mental health of the patient. Letting partners in for the 20-week scan in the Rotunda was good, so the question is whether the others can, too.

"Conversations are being had and things are being assessed so I'm hoping things will keep moving in the right direction."

A key concern for those who contacted her was not having their other half there for the first scan to detect the baby's heartbeat.

"I'm a mum of one and if I had to go through it now, I'm not sure I could," she said.

"That's the period where if something is wrong, you'll see it and you do not want to be alone in that room when that happens.

"I get it when hospitals say, 'we'll call someone if there is something wrong and they can be let in straight away'. But once you're there and you know there's something wrong, it's that moment when you really need someone there.

"The early pregnancy part needs to be reviewed constantly by hospitals. There also needs to be a will and the resources put in by the Government in upskilling health across the board.

"That's a massive issue and it was brought up with the Level 3 restrictions this week, where they were talking about upskilling our health and mental health system.

Issues

"We need to make sure we upskill maternity care as well."

Ms Chu - who has a daughter, Alex (2), with her politician partner Patrick Costello - acknowledged that our hospitals are constrained by issues of space and funding.

"A lot of this comes down to a resource and space issue and if hospitals have the funding, it will make it much easier for them," she said.

A lot of confusion also surrounds what restrictions are in place in what hospitals and what measures will be implemented going forward, as we learn to live with the virus.

"For me, it's making sure that the hospitals are continuously assessing - and they say they are - and trying to figure out where we are at and communicating that well.

"A lot of the women I spoke to, their issue isn't just that there are restrictions, a lot of the time they don't know what the restrictions are.

"A lot of the loneliness and feelings of not being supported stems from being told one thing when something else applies," she added.

"Each hospital has different restrictions in terms of space and resources, but across the board clarity on what each hospital is doing would be very, very helpful."

Ms Chu said that our whole healthcare system has to be reconfigured to deal with the virus as we adjust to life post-Covid.

"I think that at first we thought this was only going to be for a couple of weeks and pregnant women had this hope that, 'oh by the end of my pregnancy, it will be fine'. Now we realise we're facing months more of this.

Ease

"A plan really does have to be put in place on how we support our health services across the board - like oncology, maternity, various departments.

"For me, my uncle has Stage 4 cancer. I want to know exactly what's going to be done in relation to oncology out-patient care.

"Those things are really important and they're things I'm going to be asking over the coming months."

A campaign running on website Myuplift.ie is calling on the Government to ease some of the restrictions that are in place in maternity hospitals.

It has garnered nearly 50,000 signatures as the initiative gains momentum among members of the public.