Midwife backs EADT's baby unit campaign

By Becky HallewellA MIDWIFE with 25 years' service has backed the campaign to ensure the maternity unit at Harwich Hospital is reopened.Lynne Acton, 52, has worked for the past 15 years at the Harwich Hospital maternity unit and she has given her support to the campaigners fighting to ensure it stays in the town.

By Becky Hallewell

A MIDWIFE with 25 years' service has backed the campaign to ensure the maternity unit at Harwich Hospital is reopened.

Lynne Acton, 52, has worked for the past 15 years at the Harwich Hospital maternity unit and she has given her support to the campaigners fighting to ensure it stays in the town.

Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust sparked outrage in Harwich when it decided to move midwives from the town's hospital to cover for staff shortages at Colchester General Hospital.


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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.

It prompted the East Anglian Daily Times to launch a Save Our Baby Unit campaign, printing a coupon for readers to sign in protest at the trust's decision.

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The EADT is also publishing a campaign poster for readers to cut out and put in the front windows of their homes to show their support for the maternity unit.

Mrs Acton, from Wrabness, said: “It's a very difficult position for us to midwives to be in. Last Thursday afternoon we were told we were going to work in Colchester, where they are short-staffed.

“Colchester has a 12% sickness rate among midwives - the national average is 4% - so they have a retention problem at Colchester. It's a problem nationally, but at Colchester more than elsewhere.”

She added: “We want to support our colleagues at Colchester, but our first loyalty is to our women. They are our priority and we want to give to them first.

“All we can do is join the campaign and try to lobby people into changing their minds. I joined the march the other day and will support the campaign.

“Colchester is not our enemy and we want to support them, but not at the expense of our women.”

Mrs Acton said the midwives wanted to run the unit in their spare time to ensure expectant mothers could continue to give birth there, but had been told by the trust it would not be allowed.

“All we can do is go to work in Colchester. We hope that if a woman in labour from Harwich comes in to Colchester, there will be a Harwich midwife on duty that they can see,” she added.

“We are hoping that is what is going to happen, but it depends on who is in charge. Why should women of Harwich be less important than women of Colchester?

“Why doesn't Colchester call in midwives working out in the community there instead of us? They have put midwives from Clacton and Colchester on-call in Harwich instead of Harwich midwives.

“There is a Government document called 'Changing Childbirth' which says we should aim for 75% of births to be done by midwives known to the women giving birth. What they have done works every inch of the way against this.”

Mrs Acton said there was a risk involved for pregnant mothers who went into labour and then had to travel to Colchester.

“The Harwich unit was developed by public money as the people of Harwich felt so strongly because so many babies were born on the A120 and other inappropriate places,” she added.

“There's one I think about every day. A woman, who was 31 weeks pregnant, knocked on the unit's door at 8.30am. She delivered a little while later and would not have got to Colchester.

“If we had not been there and called the paediatric flying squad, the baby would have died.”

Mrs Acton also questioned whether the temporary measure of the maternity unit was a “dry run” for a permanent closure.

“As in any walk of life, if they can prove that Harwich managed without the unit, they'll be able to argue that it should be closed,” she said.

“But already this week we have had one unplanned delivery at home, which would have taken place in the unit if it were open.”

Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust has confirmed the Harwich Hospital maternity unit would not reopen for another five months.

But the trust stressed it was committed to restoring the service as soon as possible and has denied the temporary closure would become permanent.

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