Maternity unit could shut for good

CAMPAIGNERS fear pregnant women will never be able to give birth again at a town's hospital following a decision to temporarily transfer some midwives from the unit.

CAMPAIGNERS fear pregnant women will never be able to give birth again at a town's hospital following a decision to temporarily transfer some midwives from the unit.

The transfer of midwives from Harwich Hospital means pregnant women will have to travel to Colchester General Hospital or Clacton Hospital for deliveries.

Health campaigners feared the move could be made permanent and pregnant women in Harwich would never again be able to give birth at the town's Main Road hospital or at a proposed new hospital.

Some pregnant women said they are so incensed by the move that they are planning to hold a demonstration outside the unit.

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VickieWilliams, chairman of Tendring Health Action Group, said: "I'm not sure what's going to happen long term. I feel there's something devious going on with the proposed new hospital. They want to get rid of the unit – I don't think we'll ever see it back in Harwich.

"I don't see an end to this saga, morale among staff and patients is now very low. I have a message – don't take our staff away. We never see cuts in bureaucracy, it's always our staff."

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She added: "They should have planned this better. We have this every year, it's always Harwich that suffers and our staff that is taken away. If they can't cope now, what's going to happen to the new hospital?

"What's now left is patients left insecure. I've already had pregnant mothers come up to me worried when they are about to give birth. I find it frightening, I'm very worried. It's been going on for years now."

Expectant mother, Marie Stanford who is 37 weeks pregnant with her third child, said: "If I can't go to Harwich I would rather have a home birth than go to Colchester. I will have a complete and utter stranger delivering my child otherwise – it's such a good unit at Harwich, you can't get any better."

Harwich Branch Labour Party has launched a petition over the move.

Chairman Ann Evander, said it called on Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust to immediately reinstate all services at the maternity unit and take all necessary steps to ensure failures in the recruitment and retention of staff were not allowed to jeopardise it in the future.

"This petition will enable local residents to send the message to Essex Rivers that our maternity unit is valued and not to be sacrificed, however temporarily, for their failures," she added.

A spokesman for Essex Rivers Heathcare Trust said it was totally committed to restoring the services as soon as possible and said the decision was not taken lightly.

He said there were a significant number of midwife vacancies at Colchester General Hospital due to a number of people retiring and some people moving on to other jobs.

He added the trust was working to boost recruitment at the hospital and hoped deliveries would be able to take place again at Harwich Hospital as soon as possible but assured parents the service would return.

Harwich Labour MP, Ivan Henderson, has condemned the decision.

Mr Henderson has written to Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust chief executive Mike Pollard to condemn the move and demand the reinstatement of full maternity services at Harwich immediately.

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