UL Hospitals Group announces gradual relaxation of access restrictions at maternity hospital

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University Maternity Hospital Limerick
University Maternity Hospital Limerick

UL Hospitals Group is pleased to announce the gradual relaxation of a number of COVID-19 restrictions on access to University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL), as local transmission of COVID-19 decreases and the vaccination programme rolls out across the Mid-West.

The option of having a nominated partner present for anomaly scans has been reintroduced at the hospital this week, and from next Monday, April 26th fathers/parents of babies in the neonatal unit will be permitted to visit, 4.30pm-6.30pm, subject to activity in the unit.

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Weekly risk assessment is ongoing at the hospital with a view to giving a nominated partner 45-minute visiting slots on the hospital’s postnatal wards, M1 and M2, from May 10th 2020 between the hours of 6pm and 8pm daily.

Eileen Ronan, UL Hospitals Group’s Director of Midwifery, welcomed the hospital’s first steps in the careful, phased relaxation of the visiting restrictions that have been in force at UMHL for almost the entirety of the pandemic.

“No-one could minimise the impact these restrictions have had on women using our services, their partners and loved ones. The restrictions run counter to the spirit of joy and happiness traditionally associated with pregnancy and the arrival of new-born babies, and we are delighted to be in a position where we can safely permit circumstances that allow parents and their children closer contact at this most important time in their lives,” Ms Ronan said

“While these restrictions have been difficult, they have been necessary, and effective. During the surge of cases in the earlier part of the year, it was more important than ever to safeguard the health of mothers and babies and our staff. We are grateful for the cooperation of our patients and their families and the broader community. Thanks to their sacrifices, they ensured there was no outbreak of COVID-19 in UMHL, with all the dangers that would have created for specialist maternity staff, young babies, and mothers and mums-to-be,” Ms Ronan added.

In taking the decision to implement or relax restrictions, UMHL, like all maternity hospitals, 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.

UMHL is acting in accordance with the advice of the National Women and Infant’s Health Programme, whose clinical director Dr Peter McKenna earlier this week expressed hope that the decrease in community transmission, allied with immunisation of hospital staff, would enable the country’s maternity hospitals to relax access restrictions over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, visiting on the basis of compassion grounds will continue to be facilitated, as it has been throughout the pandemic. Birthing partners will also continue to be supported in attending the Labour Ward and Theatre.

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.

The measures are subject to change, and hospital management will continue to review the situation 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.