Safeguard the Right of All Laboring People to Have Support During COVID-19 Crisis
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On March 21, the NYS Department of Health issued clear guidelines on treating patients in labor during the COVID-19 crisis. These guidelines determined a support person, whether a spouse, partner or other chosen person, is essential to care for the patient during labor, delivery and in the postpartum period. The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees. We agree.
As of March 26, all New York Presbyterian and Mount Sinai affiliated hospitals, and Staten Island University Hospital in the New York City area will act against WHO, CDC and DOH guidance and ban all support people--including spouses--from Labor & Delivery and Postpartum units. This means people in labor will give birth alone and parent alone. Parents will miss the birth of their child.
Fundamentally, risks for the people laboring alone will increase substantially. Not only can partners and spouses provide physical and emotional comfort during labor and postpartum, they are also essential in alerting staff when something has gone wrong and the laboring patient cannot notify nurses themselves, like in the event of an eclamptic seizure or a fainting episode. Timing is critical in these cases and monitors can be unreliable.
We cannot expect nursing staff, already spread thin, to spend the limitless hours needed with each patient to ensure their health and their baby's health, to provide physical assistance and emotional support.
We know the hospital system is overwhelmed in this crisis. However, the burden will only be increased by banning support people from Labor & Delivery. We must ensure no one gives birth alone. We must ensure the maternal mortality rate does not increase during this time.
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