USAID media partner fixes it for women to be allowed to have their partners with them when giving birth
Before the pandemic, a big number of child deliveries in Ukraine took place with partners in attendance. However, at the beginning of the COVD-19 quarantine, local authorities in almost all of Ukraine’s regions banned partners from being present at their children’s birth even though such a ban was not called for by national authorities or supported by international health organizations.
Also, in spite of the launch of the second phase of medical reform which guaranteed that all costs in maternity hospitals of Ukraine should be covered by state funds, hospital officials were continuing to demand money from patients to cover the cost of giving birth. Underreporting also threatened Rivne maternity hospital’s state funding.
With USAID support, the Agency for Investigative Reporting 4vlada (Fourth Estate) implemented a project aimed at improving local coverage of healthcare issues, primarily in Rivne region. The agency analyzed issues with healthcare improvements taking place in the area and asked experts how they could be resolved. Fourth Estate covered the topic of partners being excluded from maternity wards extensively through a series of multimedia publications reaching 43,000 readers through its website and social media platforms.
According to the chief sanitary doctor of Rivne region Roman Safonov, he pushed for a reversal the decision after reading Fourth Estate’s reports, which provided detailed arguments regarding the health benefits of partners attending births, the absence of a ban from the national health authorities, and how the issue of Covid-19 safety was treated in other European countries. “I hesitated for a long time. I wanted to see how it would work in the city and if there would be cases when patients got infected with the virus. I also followed [Fourth Estate] publications and paid attention to them. So, I weighed the risks and decided to back the commission’s decision [to overturn the ban],” said Safonov, saying he believed Fourth Estate deserved credit for the restoration of partners’ rights to be present at the birth of their children.
The new rules are that a partner is allowed to be present at their child’s birth if they are able to present a negative coronavirus test result.
Alla Kostyshyna from Rivne gave birth to her second daughter in the Perinatal Center in September 2020. Her husband, Viktor Kostyshyn, was eager to be present during the birth, but the couple feared that this would not be possible because of the quarantine and the ban. Fortunately for the Kostyshyns and other families in Rivne, partners were allowed to attend births in the summer.
“It’s easier when you know that your partner is there, and both of you are waiting for the baby. Your partner understands what you need from a glance. And, of course, the moment when a child is born and the father sees that, is unique. It means a lot to the family,” said Alla Kostyshyna.
Maternity hospital stops illegal charging of patients and starts proper reporting of births following USAID media partner investigation
From April 1, 2020 onward, the cost of giving birth in a maternity hospital should have been free of charge to citizens following the second phase of medical reform. As the investigation of Fourth Estate showed, however, maternity hospital officials demanded money in cash for the purchase of necessary medication from the hospital pharmacy instead of reporting the birth to National Health Service to be reimbursed from the state budget. Fourth Estate was able to show that the regional maternity hospital was underreporting births compared to previous records.
Several investigative reports revealed a raft of problems with the maternity hospital’s practices that also threatened to significantly reduce its funding. The publications attracted a large audience – 73,600 views on Fourth Estate’s website, Facebook, and YouTube pages. As a result of the coverage, public pressure, and the input of the National Health Service, the hospital’s reporting failings have been fixed.
NHS representative Chrystyna Petryk said: “Fourth Estate drew the attention of NHS to the fact that the number of reported births was far fewer than the real number, and accurate reporting on that is a necessary precondition for contracting and paying the hospital. The situation was rectified. I cooperate with media like with colleagues with whom we have a common goal – to inform patients about how to exercise their rights to free medical care.”
Photo: Alla and Viktor Kostyshyn with their daughter. Photo shared with Fourth Estate from a family album.