Couple's fury after baby unit closed

By Juliette MaxamA COUPLE from Colchester have been outraged after being forced to travel to London to visit their newborn son because the town's special care baby unit is full.

By Juliette Maxam

A COUPLE from Colchester have been outraged after being forced to travel to London to visit their newborn son because the town's special care baby unit is full.

Claire Harper, 23, gave birth 11 weeks prematurely to baby Liam at 5.30pm on November 8 at Colchester General Hospital.

Liam, who weighed 2lb 15oz at birth, was declared healthy – but because he is so tiny, their son needs constant monitoring in an incubator and has a line into his stomach because he cannot suckle yet.


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After his birth, he was taken to the hospital's special care baby unit, but later that evening Mrs Harper and her husband, Adrian, were told there was not room for him there and he was being transferred to Homerton Hospital, more than 60 miles way in London.

One week later and baby Liam is still in London because Colchester General Hospital's special care baby unit has been temporarily closed because it is full.

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Mr and Mrs Harper are having to drive to London every day to be with their son and the situation is causing them both great distress.

Mr Harper said: "My wife is very emotional. We lost a baby at 21 weeks at Colchester General Hospital two years ago. When we go home, it's like the same feeling of emptiness over and over again.

"It's a nightmare. I'm not sleeping, I'm constantly waiting for the phone to ring. It's a living hell. It should be the happiest time of our lives."

"I don't know what we can do. It's not Colchester's fault they've got no beds. It's more for the Government."

The couple were offered accommodation by Homerton Hospital, but declined it because they were worried about leaving their flat unattended for a long period.

A spokesman for Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust, which runs Colchester General Hospital, said since baby Liam had been sent to London, another baby had also been transferred to the capital.

"We are doing everything we can. The special care baby unit is still full, but we are hoping we will be able to make some discharges over the weekend and Monday so we will have cots available for them to come back to Colchester," he added.

"It's very exceptional that we are not able to accommodate premature babies that need special care and attention."

The spokesman said the hospital had also had to deal with a peak of premature babies or newborn babies who were ill.

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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