The World Health Organization and other organizations agree that pregnant people have the right to have their partner or another companion present at their birth, but recently several New York hospitals barred partners from delivery wards. Pushback from the government forced them to reverse course—but a recent case has some hospitals tightening visitor policies without issuing outright bans.
A New York state father made headlines this week after he hid his coronavirus symptoms from hospital staff at the University of Rochester's Strong Memorial Hospital so that he could be present for the birth of his child. When the mother started showing coronavirus symptoms shortly after giving birth, the father told hospital staff that he had been exposed and was symptomatic when he came to the hospital.
"After the mother exhibited symptoms, and the OB team learned that the partner had been exposed to COVID-19 and was symptomatic, the patient was tested and all staff who had been in contact were informed of their possible exposure," a hospital spokesperson explained in a statement to media.
Thankfully, no staff members tested positive and the family has been sent home to quarantine, but the case highlighted the need for stricter screening of visitors. Before this case, the hospital asked visitors questions to confirm their health status. Now, they're checking temperatures at the door and every 12 hours for the duration of their visit.
"It was purely an honor system before," UR Medicine spokesman Chip Partner told The Democrat and Chronicle. "Now we're adding the temperature check."
"Our health care team understands how important it is to pregnant patients to have a support person with them during labor, and therefore, additional safeguards have been added to allow this to continue safely," the hospital's statement to media explains.
It continues: "We will continue to weigh all the medical evidence available to continue to make the best possible decision for all our patients, visitors and staff."
It would be heartbreaking for a parent to not be present at the birth of their child, but it would be even more heartbreaking if other babies contracted coronavirus. It is important that people be honest with medical care providers during this time of crisis.