Cape Town – An Elsies River dad, who missed the birth of his daughter, is calling on the authorities to allow fathers to be present in the labour ward during the coronavirus pandemic.
The 36-year-old Ricardo Petersen’s daughter Isabella was born on 29 May, but he missed it.
His wife, Natasha Petersen, 33, was forced to give birth alone at Karl Bremer Hospital, which she has described “as the most horrible and painful experience” of her life.
Natasha went into labour on 28 May and Ricardo says he was unaware that his wife had been transferred from Elsies River Day Hospital to Karl Bremer.
“When she went into labour, I took her to Elsies River Hospital, but when I got there, I was told I cannot be inside,” he says.
The dad says it was after midnight and icy cold and he bribed a security guard to allow him into the waiting area.
“I left the hospital after 6am and came back at 9am and had to stand in a long queue, but eventually I got so worked up and approached a nurse who said that my wife had been moved to Karl Bremer,” he says.
But when Ricardo reached the hospital in Bellville after 11am, he heard that his daughter had already been born.
“I had to stand in two queues for hours and I was sad to find out that I didn’t even know she was born,” the upset father says.
“I was there when our two other children were born. I was only allowed to see my daughter Isabella for two minutes.”
Natasha says having Richard with her in the labour ward would have made a big difference.
“When I got there, the sister was helpful, but she went off duty, then two younger nurses came on duty and they just stood there when my water broke, and did nothing,” she explains.
“After 7am when the morning staff came, an elderly nurse helped me. It was the worst pain a woman can experience during birth and it was terrible not having my husband there.”
Ricardo now wants government to allow men into the labour wards: “They are allowing the sale of alcohol, but we as fathers are not allowed to see our babies being born.
“Why not place the fathers behind a plastic shield and dress them in those PPE (personal protective equipment) suits?”
Maret Lesch, the Western Cape Government Health spokesperson, says: “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and our efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19 in our facilities, all visitation and birthing partners, including fathers, are restricted at all public hospitals, including Karl Bremer Hospital.
“Birthing partners for minor clients will be assessed on a case-to-case basis.”
“Only one companion of a patient’s choice will be able to wait in the waiting room and will be updated on the condition and progress of the patient.
“A single visit after the birth of the baby will be allowed in the postnatal ward. As soon as it is safe, birth partners will be allowed in our hospitals again.”