Covid outbreak in maternity hospital sparks visitor restrictions

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University Maternity Hospital Limerick
University Maternity Hospital Limerick

by David Raleigh

Increased visitor restrictions and infection control measures have been put in place at University Maternity Hospital Limerick following an outbreak of Covid-19 on its inpatient wards.

Access for nominated support partners to UMHL inpatient wards is now “limited to one two-hour slot per day between the hours of 2pm and 8pm”, according to a statement released by the hospital this week.

“These slots will be co-ordinated at ward level by our staff, who will link directly with service users and nominated support partners.”

The hospital said: “We recognise that this represents a considerable reduction in access on our inpatient wards. We will facilitate additional access for inpatients on compassionate grounds on a case-by-case basis where these restrictions are causing considerable distress.”

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“We are committed to increasing access for partners on our inpatient wards as soon as possible.”

“An online system is available for nominated support partners to complete a Covid-19 questionnaire in advance of attending the hospital. We also encourage partners to consider taking an antigen test in advance of attending UMHL should they have one at home.”

Management said the new restrictions only affect its inpatient wards.

It stated: “Nominated support partners continue to be permitted access to the following areas in UMHL, regardless of vaccination status, once a Covid-19 questionnaire and temperature screening has been completed at the hospital reception”.

These areas include the Labour Ward (throughout labour and delivery); Theatre (including Elective and Emergency C-Section); NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) / HDU (High Dependency Unit) which have designated time slots for fathers/parents of babies; EPAU (Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit); Emergency high risk admissions; 12-Week Scan; Anomaly Scan.

The hospital urged nominated support partners “not to access the hospital if they have symptoms of Covid-19”.

The Covid outbreak was declared on an inpatient ward on December 28 “after a number of patients tested positive”, it said.

Management added that the restrictions to all inpatient wards were “a precautionary measure” and were “being introduced at a time of high community transmission which is affecting patients and staff”.

“We expect to admit a number of women who have tested positive in the coming days and Covid-19 related staff absences are increasing across the health service.”

“An outbreak control team has been established and we wish to reassure patients and their loved ones that all appropriate infection control precautions are being followed to minimise the risk of spreading.”

“We also recognise the difficulty and distress any restriction in access causes to service users and their loved ones. We will continue to facilitate access for nominated support partners to the greatest degree practicable, these temporary restrictions will be reviewed on a continuing basis and we will issue a further update in the coming days.”