A NEW dad call is calling for a change to the one parent visiting rule at Welsh hospitals after his son was born prematurely.

Due to current Covid regulations, the father from Pensarn, who cannot be named, said he and his partner were not able to visit his son at the Special Care Baby Unit in Glan Clwyd Hospital together.

Their son was born premature at 29 weeks.

He felt the measures stopped him bonding with his son and put him and his partner under ‘unnecessary stress’.

Mum Nicola Jacovelli, of Rhyl, is another parent who said the one parent rule ‘nearly broke her, her relationship and family.'

Nicola, who has partner Mark Coles, gave birth five weeks early to Grace Olivia Pippa Coles on June 1 2020. Grace spent two weeks in SCBU.

The 29-year-old already had to cope with grief after having a stillborn baby in 2019; George was delivered on June 18 2019 at 39 weeks.

Nicola, who has son Oliver, aged seven, said: “I felt very alone in my pregnancy and would have anxiety attacks at every appointment that their wouldn't be a heartbeat.

Rhyl Journal:

"The day Grace was born it happened very quickly after my daily monitoring. I was alone and having to go over to the labour ward on my own after a terrible and heartbreaking experience it was like nothing I can describe. My partner was allowed to attend whilst we waited to see if my contractions would stop but this was a special allowance which my consultant fought for after what I'd been through.

"A few hours later I was going for an emergency section which my partner was allowed to attend.

"When Grace was born she was rushed onto the high dependency unit with lack of oxygen and struggling to breath, my partner went with her at this stage.

"After recovery I was wheeled into a room and my partner was allowed in for an hour but obviously we didn't want our daughter to be alone so, when he left, he was told he couldn't come back. He had no way to know if I was okay after this. I remember him saying he felt very torn and didn't know what to do.

"It really upset him having to make a choice.

"I told him to leave to be with Grace but I really needed him.

"After a while I was allowed to see Grace, now being wheeled into a room full of machines," Nicola added.

"I couldn't hold her, I didn't have any support from anyone so again grief flooded me and I felt very alone and afraid.

"This continued over the next couple of weeks and at first it was touch and go because Grace developed a punctured lung from the Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and needed to be ventilated with a chest drain. Me and Mark and I could only go in one at a time so he would wait outside for me to see her until he could go in.

"One day he was in the corridor as I was being wheeled over to the Special Care Baby Unit from the postnatal ward and I wasn't allowed to stop and talk to him. I became more lonely and very distressed.

"One of the nurses on the SCBU must have seen how upset I was and actually allowed us a little time together with Grace (about 30 minutes) because it was very touch and go at that moment. I will never be more thankful for that moment because it made such a difference to see our child together for the first time.

"Over the next few days we couldn't see each other but would send each other photos and messages from across the corridor."

Nicola decided to go home as she felt she could no longer be in the hospital.

"Walking away again with no baby was just heartbreaking," she said.

Rhyl Journal:

Nicola spent two weeks in SCBU. Grace's treatment involved CPAP, Ventilation, chest drain and light therapy

"We [Mark and I] became like ships passing. I would go in the morning and him when I got back. This had a significant and harmful impact on our relationship because we needed each other and that couldn't happen.

"The one parent rule nearly broke me, my relationship and my family. I'd met so many other parents doing it alone in there for months and I still think about them all now.

"We laughed and cried together many times. It is strange that when you have no one, you can find care from other people in the same position but it is still not the same.

"I don't believe there is a need to have a one parent rule.

"There are ways of going around it and I am 100 per cent certain that parents would be willing to do anything if they can be together on the ward."

Rhyl Journal:

Nicola said the one parent rule nearly broke her

Both parents have written to Dr James Davies, MP for Vale of Clwyd, about the one parent rule on Special Care Baby Unit at Glan Clwyd Hospital.

Dr Davies said: “Ensuring access to health and social care services during the pandemic has often been difficult, due to the need to balance risks of infection. This is even more the case when it comes to allowing next of kin to accompany those receiving care.

“There is still much ongoing debate about partners accompanying pregnant women for appointments and recently I have been approached by two families in relation to both parents being allowed to enter the Special Care Baby Unit together.

“There are very powerful reasons why this should be permitted if at all possible and I have written to the health board on the matter.

“With the use of regular and rapid testing and Personal Protective Equipment, I hope a solution can be reached.”

Debra Hickman, acting executive director of Nursing and Midwifery, said: “We recognise that these restrictions can be upsetting for new parents.

“Our policy on allowing one parent to visit at a time in our Special Care Baby Units is based on guidance from the Welsh Government, which is being kept under regular review.

"Our first priority in implementing this guidance is the safety of our patients, service users and visitors in the prevention and control of infection in our healthcare settings.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases but we understand how difficult it is for families.

"The safety and wellbeing of mothers and babies as well as the staff who support them, continues to be at the heart of the maternity and neonatal visiting guidance at this time.

"Health boards will take individual circumstances into account and we would advise families to speak to their care team.”

The latest guidance on the BCUHB’s website under Hospital Visiting Restricted / Visitor access for neonatal services states:

  • Both parents can be partners in their baby’s care.
  • No other visitors are permitted in the Neonatal Units, including siblings.
  • Parents are asked to attend the unit one at a time to assist with social distancing.
  • Any parents who have Covid-19 symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19 cannot visit and are required to follow the quarantine guidelines.
  • In cases of bereavement /discontinuing intensive care, safe practices are put in place to allow the family to be together.

The Welsh Government also published new guidelines for hospital visiting during Coronavirus outbreak. This was on Monday, November 30.

The guidance states: "Visiting in maternity services will now be based on a risk assessment approach by health boards. This will take into consideration local environmental factors such as room sizes, ability to socially distance and infection prevention and control risks in enabling partners to safely accompany pregnant women and new mothers.

"This risk assessed approach should be taken in collaboration with relevant health professionals, local infection prevention and control teams and Public Health Wales.

"All women will be supported to have at least one partner with them during active labour, birth and for the period immediately after the birth, except in an extremely limited number of circumstances."

Click here for the full statement.