The first episode of series two of The Rotunda aired on the national broadcaster this week, causing huge distress among pregnant women and their partners who were still facing visiting restrictions.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly called on bosses of the maternity hospital to explain the situation, and they issued a statement apologising for “upset or anxiety” caused but also defended filming of the “important” documentary series.
In a statement issued this morning, the hospital said visiting hours would for partners would be extended from 8am to 8pm beginning Monday, September 13th, bringing visiting arrangements “close to pre-pandemic levels”.
The Rotunda said the decision had been made because recent surveys from the hospital found 57 per cent of patients, and 74 per cent of their partners, were fully vaccinated.
The hospital said: “In response to this significant improvement in vaccination rates, effective Monday September 13, 2021, the Rotunda will now be able to extend visiting hours for partners to 08.00am to 08.00pm each day. All other existing access controls to keep all patients safe continue to apply. This brings the Rotunda’s visiting arrangements close to pre-pandemic levels and remains vastly more accessible to arrangements that remain at almost all acute general hospitals in the state.
“The Rotunda’s management team will continue to keep these arrangements under regular review, taking all necessary precautions to keep all our patients safe, while making decisions that are evidenced and based on current Infection Prevention and Control guidance.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said there should be “consistency” when making clinical decisions.
“Fathers and partners shouldn’t be facing restrictions and I’ve have been consistent on that quite some time, and I’ve made my views known to the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE who has undertaken to ensure there would be uniformity across the system,” he added.
“Clinical autonomy applies but I don’t think it was appropriate that partners were denied access but then media were allowed in .
“I think there has to be consistency in terms of decision making, but I’m not privy to the clinical decision making in respect of the Rotunda, but I do think there has to be consistency.”
Mr Martin said he also understood the anger from parents.
“I believe that you can’t have one set of guidance for partners, and another set of guidance then for media,” he added.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for RTÉ said that the film crew was reduced to “the bare minimum” with a lot of filming taking place off-site.
The spokeswoman added: “For filming this season, we reduced our footfall in the hospital to the bare minimum with a lot of filming taking place off-site.
“The majority of filming in the hospital was recorded by remote cameras controlled from outside the building.
“Additional research and filming was produced by a single person or on occasion by a compact two-person crew.
“Strict Covid-19 infection prevention and control protocols were followed at all times by the production.”