Maternity unit shut for five months

By Ted JeoryHEALTH bosses have confirmed Harwich Hospital's maternity unit will not reopen for another five months.The town's Labour MP, Ivan Henderson, met with Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust bosses yesterday to discuss its decision to move midwives from Harwich Hospital to cover for staff shortages at Colchester General Hospital.

By Ted Jeory

HEALTH bosses have confirmed Harwich Hospital's maternity unit will not reopen for another five months.

The town's Labour MP, Ivan Henderson, met with Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust bosses yesterday to discuss its decision to move midwives from Harwich Hospital to cover for staff shortages at Colchester General Hospital.

The move - which health bosses said was a temporary measure - means pregnant women cannot give birth at Harwich Hospital's maternity unit and have to travel 20 miles to have their babies in Colchester.


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It prompted the East Anglian Daily Times to launch a Save Our Baby Unit campaign, which has been given Mr Henderson's full backing.

The EADT is publishing a coupon for readers to sign, calling on Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust bosses to ensure Harwich Hospital maternity unit is fully reopened and stays in the town.

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Mr Henderson met trust chief executive, Mike Pollard, and secured a promised that the maternity until would reopen on March 1 - it had been thought births would not resume there until at least a month later.

“What we now have is a guaranteed opening date and it might even be sooner than that. Overall, I'm pleased with what's happening now,” said the MP.

“Next Tuesday, there will be a meeting between me, Mr Pollard, Colchester Primary Care Trust and the midwives, where we will thrash out the issues and decide how we go forward.

“There will also be monthly progress reports from Mr Pollard, telling people the state of play on the recruitment issues.”

Campaigners opposed to the closure of the maternity unit staged another protest yesterday outside Harwich Hospital, which was joined by pupils who left school at lunchtime to take part in the demonstration.

Hundred of leaflets were handed out yesterday morning, urging children “fed-up of being at school when people at the maternity ward need help” to join a “school” strike at the hospital entrance.

Sixth-former Kirsty Merriott, 16, felt it was healthy for democracy for the pupils to take part in the protest.

“It's a really good idea for the children to be here. They are being brought up to respect their society, to care about issues. That surely is what society needs,” she added.

But Harwich School headteacher, Jacky Froggett, said the call for the strike had been “irresponsible” as term time had just begun and teachers had been working hard to establish a good learning atmosphere.

“I have sympathy with the difficulties the town has, but we have a duty of care to children to stop them getting involved in protests in school time,” she added.

Grandmother-of-two Gill Scarlett, from Parkeston, said she had been at the protests every day this week, but she felt their good work was now under threat.

“It's disgusting getting these kids involved. They don't know what they are talking about,” she added.

“This is about the maternity ward full stop. They're diverting attention away from our fight and what these kids are doing is just putting it all in jeopardy.”

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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