Fight is on for another maternity unit

WOMEN in Braintree are waging a war against the closure of another maternity unit in Essex.The William Julien Courtald Hospital in the town closed last Monday due to staff shortages.

WOMEN in Braintree are waging a war against the closure of another maternity unit in Essex.

The William Julien Courtald Hospital in the town closed last Monday due to staff shortages.

Ann Fuller and Trina Whittaker of Muffets children's clothing store in Braintree are hoping a petition started last week will make a difference.

Ms Fuller said they had so far collected more than 200 signatures from customers: "We get a lot of mothers that are really upset about it."


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Her colleague, Trina Whittaker added: "It's very sad. We had ladies in who said they had worked there for 24 years."

She said the main problem was that very few people, including expectant mothers, seemed to know that the maternity unit had closed, and certainly did not know how long it would be closed for.

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Ms Whittaker said: "One lady came in to the shop who was due to give birth within the next few weeks and was shocked to hear the news. It's extremely sad."

All women who would normally have given birth at the Braintree maternity unit have had to travel 15 miles to hospitals in Chelmsford or St Peter's Hospital in Maldon, or have the option of a home birth.

Of the five midwives normally based in Braintree, two are on long-term sick leave and the others have been transferred to Chelmsford.

A spokeswoman for Mid-Essex Hospitals Trust said: "We have a lot of staff with long-term sickness leave, so obviously it's hard to predict when it can reopen, but we will be reviewing it regularly. It's certainly only temporary."

The move follows the closure of Harwich maternity unit in September, which caused uproar amongst staff and patients.

The ward is shut until early next year so midwives can cover staff shortages at Colchester General Hospital, but may re-open sooner if recruitment drives are successful.

Many mothers-to-be were angered at the prospect of having to travel the 20 miles to Colchester to give birth.

Several protests and demonstration marches have ensued in Harwich over the past couple of months, and midwives even offered to work for nothing to keep the ward open.

The East Anglian Daily Times is supporting the need for full maternity services with our "Save Our Baby Unit" campaign, with the full backing of midwives and support staff.

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