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11th Aug 2021

Maternity restrictions in place due to low vaccination uptake, Rotunda Hospital confirms

Kat O'Connor

“We always strive to accommodate partners if there are individual extenuating circumstances.”

The Rotunda Hospital has issued a statement about its current maternity restrictions. The hospital has come under fire for not allowing partners to attend appointments, but the hospital has now confirmed why their restrictions are still in place.

They explained that 60% of patients and their partners are not vaccinated. This concerning figure means the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the hospital is higher, which could put other patients and hospital staff at risk.

“We have tried to minimise the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on our patients’ birth and pregnancy experience, however, there are some maternity-specific and Rotunda-specific issues which have resulted in us needing to maintain some restrictions.”

“We have regularly surveyed inpatients in The Rotunda as to their vaccination status in order to give us an overview of vaccination rates in our patient cohort.

“Only 39% of inpatients are currently fully vaccinated, and only 41% of partners. Therefore, with 60% of our patients and their partners not fully being vaccinated, this represents a very serious risk and a very different setting to that seen in other general hospitals and the wider community,” they shared.

They added: “COVID-19 still poses a serious risk to our patients, their babies, and their partners. We continue to urge our patients and their partners to get vaccinated by signing up at Vaccination protects you from COVID-19, and may also help protect your baby when they are born.”

The hospital stressed that it is their responsibility to keep their patients and their babies safe, which is why their current restrictions are in place.

There have been growing concerns about the number of pregnant women testing positive for COVID-19 in Ireland. The hospital explained that there has been a “significant increase noted throughout Ireland in pregnant patients with severe COVID-19 illness.”

Pregnant women who test positive for COVID-19 may need to be admitted to hospital. They may need additional breathing support, including ventilation and the risk of pregnancy complications such as preterm birth or stillbirth can increase.

The hospital added that practicing social distancing in the 275-year-old building is not straightforward. “Providing safe physical distancing in areas like the Outpatients Department, Emergency Department and our multi-bed rooms is impossible,” they explained.

The hospital’s current restrictions are to reduce footfall and the number of people patients interact with.

The rates of COVID-19 infection in our community are high and continue to rise, despite the strong vaccine uptake. The hospital stressed that the high infection rates in the under 30 age group are a major concern for them because that age group comprises a large part of The Rotunda’s patient population.

“Not only are our patients more likely to be unvaccinated, and less likely to be able to physically distance while in the Hospital, they are also disproportionately more likely to be affected by COVID-19 infection.”

The Rotunda said it is constantly reviewing their restrictions, but it is simply not safe enough to ease them fully at the moment.

They are following the HSE’s and HPSC’s guidelines. “The Rotunda abides by these guidelines, including access for partners at Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit visits, the Anomaly Scan at our Ultrasound Departments, on Inpatient wards and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at certain times, and for the entire duration while the patient is in labour on the Delivery Suite.”

Partners can attend early pregnancy scanning up to 12 weeks and for the anomaly scan, but the hospital cannot allow “unrestricted visiting at other times.”

“We always strive to accommodate partners if there are individual extenuating circumstances, as we have done throughout the pandemic.”

The Rotunda has vowed to “make individual risk assessment decisions that are specific and appropriate to the Rotunda” and to review their restrictions on a weekly basis.

You can read the full statement here.