Overnight policy will not apply to every dad
A new pilot scheme allowing fathers to stay overnight at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital after their babies are born will benefit only those who can afford or are allotted a private room.
Guidelines were quietly rolled out last month which allow new dads, who previously had to go home when visiting hours ended at 8pm, to stay with their partners and help to look after their newborns all night.
But the Bermuda Hospitals Board admitted yesterday that many families would be unable to benefit from the change in rules due to a shortage of private rooms.
A spokeswoman told The Royal Gazette: “This is a pilot project and may or may not be implemented permanently. BHB recognises that partners should be on hand to help care for their child and support the mother once their child is born. It is available to everyone, provided there is space. If there is more than one mother in a room, the service is not extended.”
She said there were only two private rooms on the maternity ward and they could not be booked or reserved ahead of time.
“They are allotted on a first come, first served basis,” the spokeswoman said. “It is true that this service is only available where there is only one mother in the room. It can be that more than two mothers with insurance for private rooms are in maternity at the same time, but it is also often the case that mothers with insurance for public rooms, room alone.
“Mothers with public or semi-private room insurance can pay the difference for a private room if there is availability.
“BHB is of the view that it is better to allow this service despite the drawback, rather than not allow it.”
The cost of a private room is between $1,350 and $2,460 for a five-night stay, depending on a patient's health insurance plan.
Patients must pay the whole amount upfront but they receive a refund if they stay for fewer than five nights.
Doula Fiona Dill, who regularly acts as a birth companion for women during and after labour at KEMH, told The Royal Gazette: “The hospital have introduced a policy but my understanding is that it is entirely discretionary.
“It's not a blanket policy and, although in principle it is open to everybody, in practice it is impossible because of the facilities.
“I think this is really important for the public to know as I have had many excited mums contact me and be excited about the new policy but I have to go back to them and let them know that it is not guaranteed. So it's not something that couples will be able to go in and demand.”
Mrs Dill said it was clear the hospital had recognised a need and come up with a solution.
“The staff at the hospital are very aware of the shortcomings of the system and have listened to the complaints and needs of birthing women and their partners, which is great,” she said.
“They are on the ball and they are trying to make changes. But, despite their best efforts, the reality is that the facilities are not ideal and it will need much more than a change of policy to make this really work for everybody.”
The guidelines for the pilot scheme, which are available on BHB's website, state that fathers — or other partners — can stay in the mother's room to provide support but must not sleep on a bed, take a shower or wander in the hallways.
They must sign a form which reads: “I understand that my stay is at the discretion of BHB staff and room availability.”
The BHB spokeswoman said: “Ideally, BHB would love to have private rooms for all mothers as well as comfortable bedding and washroom facilities for the partners to spend the night.
“However, due to financial constraints, this is not possible.”