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Video: Protestors in Dovercourt voice their fears of closure of maternity unit as hundreds attend march

19:05 30 March 2014

The protest march in Dovercourt campaigning against the closure of maternity services.

The protest march in Dovercourt campaigning against the closure of maternity services.

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Hundreds of demonstrators joined a protest march in Dovercourt on Saturday to voice their fears that maternity wards in Harwich and Clacton may permanently close.

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The announcement of the march was only made on Friday but more than 350 people responded to make their feelings known.

It came after Colchester Hospital University Foundation NHS Trust (CHUFT) which runs the hospital temporarily closed the units at Clacton District Hospital and the Fryatt Hospital, in Harwich.

The reason given for the temporary closure is a shortage of midwives at Colchester General Hospital.

The short-term closure, which does not affect ante or post-natal services, allows staff to be focused at the main site, with expectant mums in Tendring forced to travel to Colchester during the interim period to give birth.

But campaigners fear the move is a stepping stone towards permanent closure of the units, a proposal which was made by the health trust last year but shelved after opposition.

Ivan Henderson, a district and county councillor for Harwich, who helped organise the march, said: “It was excellent and there was an excellent turn out. I am really proud of the community because they really came out in force.

“It’s building. It was really good to get the people of Harwich on the street because it is now building and they are not going to stop now until their voice is heard.”

The trust has said it would comment on the protest.

But speaking previously about the decision, Amanda Hallums, Divisional Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Colchester Hospital Trust, said: “The Board took this decision because of concerns about the low number of midwives at Colchester General Hospital in relation to the high number of births there.

“The Department of Health accepts that the ideal ratio should be one midwife for every 29 births in a year.

“At Colchester, where there’s an average of 70 births a week, this ratio is 1:39 whereas at Clacton it’s 1:18 and at Harwich it’s 1:14, where there’s a total of five births a week on average. We need to place our resources where the need is greater.”

People are now also being invited to air their views at a public meeting at the Methodist Central Church in Dovercourt on Wednesday. It will take place at 2pm.

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