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Film crew of RTÉ's The Rotunda entered hospital unvaccinated as partners of pregnant women were made to wait outside

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The crew which filmed RTÉ show The Rotunda during the height of the pandemic were not vaccinated when they filmed the latest series, it has emerged.

This comes following widespread anger that the latest six-part series was filmed with crew on-site while partners of pregnant women were made to wait outside maternity hospitals for infection and prevention control reasons.

In a statement to Independent.ie, The Rotunda Maternity Hospital confirmed that filming for the reality TV show, which shows families as they welcome babies into the world, took place between November 2020 and January 2021.

Asked if they knew whether the crew were vaccinated, The Rotunda told Independent.ie that “vaccinations had not commenced at the start of filming”.

Ireland’s vaccination programme did not see its first jab administered until December 29, 2020, to the elderly, healthcare workers and nursing home residents.

The Rotunda also said that filming in the maternity suites “mainly” took place through pre-installed fixed cameras that were operated remotely, but for a limited amount of filming, “one crew member, or on occasion a compact two-person crew, was present onsite”.

Linda Kelly, advocate for Better Maternity Care, said the show being filmed at the height of the worst surge of the pandemic while no partners were allowed in with pregnant women “raises many questions to be asked of hospital management”.

“Why was it a priority for them, when from an infection and prevention control point of view, a nominated support partner - who’s an essential part of the care journey - was made to wait outside while crews from this show were allowed in.

“I understand they reduced footfall and tried to do a lot of it off-site, but there were still crew members in the hospital. There were still producers approaching women in hospitals. They were an infection and control risk; this was well before the vaccine programme was rolled out.

“So the hospital was willing to accept that risk, for what? The money or the PR that the programme generates for them? Because it certainly wasn’t for the care of the women that were attending there and I think it’s really unethical that they would record the show in the middle of a pandemic when people were attending the services without any of their support network present,” Linda said.

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Ms Kelly said the credibility of the hospital management is “in tatters” after it attempted to defend current restrictions recently, all while a TV crew had been allowed in to film during the worst surge and before vaccines were available.

Management at the Rotunda Hospital said they decided to proceed with filming as it is an “important platform that allows patients and their families to share their pregnancy and birth stories with dignity and respect, both joyous and heartbreaking”.

“We believe that it is important to hear these stories and understand how maternity services continued to operate safely for all patients despite the many challenges posed by Covid-19 pandemic and also by a ‘cyber- attack’,” a spokesperson for the Rotunda said.

A tweet published by Ms Kelly highlighting the situation has gone viral with hundreds of messages of anger and condemnation in reaction to the news.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns said the situation highlights “once again how women’s healthcare is an afterthought”.

“I wish that it was surprising, but it’s not, when you go back and look at the history of maternal healthcare in this country.

“It’s one thing after another. The stories that I’ve heard from new mums. Giving birth is a big deal - pregnant women need someone there to support them. I know the staff in hospitals have been amazing in trying to support them but there’s nothing like having someone there with you.

“There has been nothing done throughout any of this to help the situation. Then when you hear about film crews coming in; you can see why people are at the end of their tether,” Deputy Cairns said.

A spokesperson for RTÉ said that they “believe in our public service remit” and our objective in making this series is to offer an important insight into Irish life in 2021.

“For filming this season we reduced our footfall in the hospital to the bare minimum with a lot of filming taking place off-site. The majority of filming in the hospital was recorded by remote cameras controlled from outside the building,” RTÉ said.

Scratch Films, the filmmakers of the show, have not yet responded to requests for comment.


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