Nfld. & Labrador

Partners can support mothers and newborns after birth, says health minister

A controversial rule to protect mothers and newborns from COVID-19 has been amended after some public criticism that it was unfair to partners and babies.

Compromise reached after thousands sign petition in wake of COVID-19 measure

A baby and mother are pictured in hospital in this file photo. On Friday afternoon, Health Minister John Haggie announced an adjustment to new COVID-19 rues around obstetrics. (KieferPix/Shutterstock )

A controversial rule to protect mothers and newborns from COVID-19 by separating them from support people, like fathers, after birth has been amended after public criticism that it was unfair to partners and babies.

At the daily COVID-19 provincial briefing on Friday, Health Minister John Haggie announced the regulation has been changed.

Our newborns and mothers are vulnerable to a virus that is no respecter of age or condition.- John Haggie

"We have extended the period [that a support person can be with a new baby and mother] to allow for some bonding for a few hours after birth," he said.

But Haggie said it's a balancing act.

"The problem is, at the end of the day, that anybody who is interacting with anyone else is at risk of either contracting the disease or passing it on. Our newborns and mothers are vulnerable to a virus that is no respecter of age or condition. So we feel this is a reasonable compromise," he said.

Haggie said the separation of mothers and their support person is unlikely to be long because many mothers and newborns are sent home within 24 hours after birth.

The original regulation meant that effective 9 a.m. April 2, no visitors were allowed on the obstetrics floor at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's, including family members and support persons of patients, such as fathers.

That meant no visitors for women who have just given birth or were in on the obstetric ward to have labour induced. A support person was allowed in the case room during delivery.

A petition was posted online on Thursday calling for a change to allow one support person be with a newborn and mother in the hospital after birth.

More than 6,000 people had signed it by the time Haggie made his comments Friday afternoon.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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