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Cuomo orders women giving birth be allowed 'support person' at hospital

Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside in

Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside in September officially changed its name from South Nassau Communities Hospital. Credit: Joe Calderone

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Saturday quashed two major health systems’ fledgling bans on visitors — including spouses and partners — accompanying women while they give birth.

Cuomo on Saturday issued an executive order requiring all hospitals to allow one "support person" who does not have a fever to be in the labor and delivery areas.

“In no hospital in New York will a woman be forced to be alone when she gives birth. Not now, not ever,” Cuomo tweeted.

On Tuesday, Manhattan-based Mount Sinai Health Systems, which runs Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside, instituted the prohibition to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

“By implementing this, we create the safest setting for patients, newborns and our health care providers," Dr. Alan Garely, chairman of the OB-GYN department at Mount Sinai South Nassau, told Newsday at the time.

Manhattan-based NewYork-Presbyterian’s ban began on Monday.

A petition against the hospitals’ moves that was posted March 22 had more than 613,000 signatures by Saturday afternoon.

Mount Sinai on Saturday released a statement that said: “In partnership with New York State, effective today, we will permit one healthy partner to join the expectant mother for labor and delivery. We have always — and will always — make these difficult decisions with the best of intentions and safety of the mother, baby and our staff as our guiding principle.”

NewYork-Presbyterian said in a statement: “We will comply with the Executive Order regarding visitors for obstetric patients, effective immediately. Our highest priority continues to be the safety and wellbeing of our patients, their families, and our staff.”

Cuomo's move follows the state Health Department’s advisory Friday that requires hospitals to allow one support person in labor and delivery settings if the patient wants it, as long as the person has no COVID-19 symptoms and is not suspected of having the virus. A support person is defined in the advisory as a spouse, partner, sibling, doula or any other person the patient chooses. The advisory clarifies a March 21 "guidance" on the matter.

The secretary to the governor, Melissa DeRosa, said at the governor's daily coronavirus update Saturday that "some of the hospitals were ignoring" the guidance, so the Health Department ramped it up Friday to a directive "and we're going to reinforce that in an executive order."