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13th Sep 2021

“A mockery of the sacrifices people made”: Why The Rotunda never should’ve aired

Kat O'Connor

Since when is a TV series more important than a person’s wellbeing?

Michael Martin said, “you can’t have one set of guidance for partners and another set of guidelines for media”, so why on earth did RTÉ go ahead with the filming of The Rotunda? The series has been met with a turbulent wave of backlash, which is completely understandable. The series, which debuted last Wednesday, has been called everything from tone-deaf to insensitive.

Women had no choice but to hear they had suffered a miscarriage as their partner sat in the maternity hospital car park. Others faced long and exhausting births alone, without their loved one’s hand to hold. Many welcomed their first child into the world without the support of a friend or sibling by their side. New fathers were stripped of the joy of bonding with their newborn sons and daughters, but RTÉ producers and film crews were allowed into The Rotunda. Since when is creating a TV series more important than a person’s emotional wellbeing?

Speaking about the controversial series, maternity care campaigner Linda Kelly said: “The show has made people feel really angry. Many people went through entire pregnancies, situations of loss, and labour on their own. Now they see a hospital prioritising access to film crews over their partners who should have been there. The whole thing makes a mockery of the sacrifices people made due to Covid,” she shared.

RTÉ has stressed that there was a minimal crew in the hospital and cameras were mounted on walls, but who installed the cameras? Crew members that were there took antigen tests to ensure they were being safe, but if that was the case why are new fathers, who are fully vaccinated, still being forced to wait in the car park, like a spare part.

The restrictions in our maternity hospitals have had a detrimental impact on women’s mental health. New mums, pregnant people, and those who have suffered child loss during the pandemic have suffered so much. They’ve suffered too much. Being faced with this tone-deaf and insensitive series is just another blow in the lonely battle they’ve been fighting.

“Many women have said it has brought back harrowing memories for them. The entire show is very triggering to watch,” Linda shared.

She continued: “I think the saddest aspect of the show is that it completely missed the opportunity to truly tell the story of what it’s been like to go through pregnancy and birth during Covid. It should not be the sole record of women’s experiences as it’s not an accurate reflection of what people have been through. It’s clear to anyone watching that women haven’t been prioritised and I think the direct link is that there are not enough women involved in senior decision-making levels in the Govt and HSE.

“The Cabinet Subcommittee on Covid is made up of six male politicians – no surprise then that they haven’t prioritised maternity care. Women and partners are still being separated during labour, they are still being separated for emergency presentations and unscheduled care and they are still being separated for the vast majority of antenatal appointments. It’s not good enough at this stage of the pandemic when 90% of the adult population is vaccinated.”

So many women have come forward and shared the trauma and heartache they went through during the pandemic.

One HerFamily reader said the series is “disgraceful”. She revealed: “I lost a baby in the rotunda, was told there was no heartbeat at 18 weeks alone and yet it’s grand for a reduced film crew to be in setting up, cannot fathom how this decision was made, actually I can as whoever made it doesn’t give a feck about the trauma women have suffered in the past two years.”

Another woman added: “I was alone when I was told my baby had passed away, I then had to tell my partner over the phone. This is an absolute joke and an insult.”

Regardless of whether there was a reduced film crew or people just setting cameras up, why did they think their presence in the hospital was more valuable than that of a father who should’ve been there when his wife was going through a miscarriage or a mum whose daughter needed her when she was giving birth to her first child?

Why has this country, yet again, put the needs of Irish women on the backburner?

As of September 13, The Rotunda has extended visiting hours for partners. This is supposedly due to a significant uptake in vaccination rates among the patient population. There’s no doubt this news will be welcomed with open arms, but think about all of those who were left isolated, alone, and stunned from worry over the past 18 months.

Is there really any coming back from the hurt this series and the damage maternity restrictions have caused?