New father 'torn away' after birth of daughter at Auckland Hospital says new policy is 'heartbreaking'

Rebecca Moore
Source: 1News

An Auckland dad was "torn away" from his wife and newborn daughter just hours after she was born because of new rules imposed at Auckland Hospital amid the coronavirus lockdown.

The new temporary visitor policy in Northland and Auckland means that one support person is allowed to be present during the delivery of a baby, but after that members of the public are not allowed to visit patients in hospitals, clinics or other community facilities. 

There are some exceptions to the new policy, which has been put in place to protect patients and staff amid the pandemic - for example a parent or guardian who is supporting a child - but the decision will be made by a lead clinician and the visitor must undergo screening before they enter to ensure they are well, have clean hands and are using appropriate personal protective equipment.

Three Kings resident David Cumin told 1 NEWS that the policy was an "unfair and unkind rule" and meant he wouldn't seen his family for two days.

He also said medical professionals on the ground were in "disbelief and shock" at having to enforce the policy which ripped dads away from their babies and partners.

"I feel for the midwives that had to enforce it because they clearly were following orders, but it really is heartbreaking and I just hope that there can be more compassionate, considered and consistent rules about these sorts of things."

However, in a statement to 1 NEWS, Auckland District Health Board said they take the protection of mothers and babies seriously during the pandemic.

"This policy achieves the important balance between giving women appropriate support during birth and minimising any risks of spreading Covid-19," a spokesperson said.

Mr Cumin went into Auckland Hospital with his wife on Wednesday for the birth of their first baby, a daughter who is yet to be named.

He was allowed to stay with his wife overnight Wednesday, before she had an emergency Cesarean section on Thursday.

"Thursday night I went to the ward with her and I was asked to leave then," he said.

"I protested and I asked what risk I was to anyone given that we had been self-isolating for three weeks and I'd been in hospital for more than 24 hours already. They couldn't answer that question," he said, adding that he'd only stayed in the room with his wife, who he'd been living with prior to going to hospital.

"I didn't roam around the hospital or walk anywhere. I was confined to the room because that's the right thing to do under these circumstances." 

On Friday morning Mr Cumin was asked to leave again but when he refused hospital staff called police to escort him out.

"At that point it wasn't really worth protesting anymore so I was torn away from my newborn and my wife.

"It's heartbreaking," he said.

"The senior nurses that came to tell me to leave were very explicit about the fact that they were following orders and everyone that we spoke to personally said that it was a bit ridiculous and they really felt for us."

Mr Cumin said he had spoken to the Health and Disability Commission, as well as patient advocates, doctors, midwives and nurses on the ward who all said it was an unfair and unkind rule.

"I got told of stories of other fathers also being ripped away from their newborns and mothers," he said.

"I've also been contacted by expectant parents who are extremely anxious and concerned about the same thing happening to them."

Mr Cumin said a better alternative would be making sure new fathers were kept in the room with their family and keeping away anyone who felt unwell.

"The policy that was rushed in isn't consistent, for example, partners are allowed at birthcare. So it's not consistent, it's certainly not compassionate or kind and as far as it being effective, it doesn't seem to really make sense that someone I've been self-isolating with for three weeks and spent two nights with in the hospital with suddenly makes me more of a risk."

Mr Cumin said both his wife and new baby were doing well and he hopes to see them tomorrow, either back at home or at a birthcare facility where he is allowed.

"That'll be two days after I was pulled away from them but I am comforted by the fact I know that they're being looked after by a really great team up in the hospital.

"I'm extremely excited and I understand that if we do go to birthcare support people and partners are allowed to be there. They've limited it to only one person which seems entirely reasonable and rational."

But at Auckland Hospital, the Auckland DHB said the visitor policy allows for one support person to be present during the delivery of a baby. The birthing partner stays with the mother until the mother and baby leave the delivery suite to be transferred to the ward.

The support person must not be in self-isolation due to recent travel or have any known Covid-19 contact or symptoms.

"We know how important the support of whānau and friends is to our patients, so this was a very difficult decision to make," the DHB spokesperson said.

Police confirmed to 1 NEWS they attended a trespass job at Auckland Hospital on Friday, but were unable to provide further information about the incident.

"I'm not aware of any significant incidents at hospitals," a police spokeswoman said.

"In general, communities across the country have followed the lockdown guidance and stayed home.

"We have seen some isolated incidents where there were reports of people congregating. In those situations the people were spoken to and provided with advice on what the restrictions mean."