Midwives back EADT campaign

By James HoreAN entire team of midwives and support staff have given their backing to the East Anglian Daily Times' campaign to reopen a maternity unit.

By James Hore

AN entire team of midwives and support staff have given their backing to the East Anglian Daily Times' campaign to reopen a maternity unit.

The EADT launched the Save Our Baby Unit campaign after health bosses closed the maternity unit at Harwich Hospital to births for five months.

The decision was taken because health bosses needed the midwives from Harwich to cover staff shortages at Colchester General Hospital.

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But the 10 midwives and eight healthcare assistants from Harwich Hospital have now all pledged their support to the EADT campaign and demanded the maternity unit should be reopened.

It has been closed for births until March 1, 2004, and fears have been voiced the temporary action by Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust will become a permanent move - an allegation denied by health bosses.

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Hundreds of EADT readers have already signed their names on Save Our Baby Unit campaign coupons, demanding the reinstatement of maternity services at Harwich Hospital.

Lynne Acton, team midwife at Harwich Hospital, said last night the morale among staff who had been forced to move to Colchester General Hospital remained strong in the “crisis”.

“All of the staff are united and our colleagues in Colchester are so grateful that their workload has been eased,” she added.

“But as the days go by we have become more determined that we will reopen the unit and do not think that March is soon enough.”

The midwives from the unit joined protesters as the ward was closed and claimed pregnant women from Harwich could be forced into a “dangerous and vulnerable” position.

They also offered to work for nothing in their spare time to keep the unit open.

The public show of support for the EADT campaign from the Harwich Hospital maternity unit staff came as more than 100 mothers held a “sit-in and sing” yesterday in protest at its closure.

Andree Race, who helped organise the demonstration, said it was vital the unit remained in the town.

“As mums in Harwich, we just wanted to make our voices heard. I had all three of my children there over an eight-year period and had the same group of midwives every time - it gives you such a head start, especially during those first few days when the care is so important,” she added.

Mrs Race said she feared the unit would not reopen with the full staffing levels.

“I won't be using it again, but I want others to have it for the future - people in the town campaigned for it to open and we need it here,” she added.

“Everybody can imagine the tragic consequences there could be if someone has to have a baby on the A120 on the way to Colchester.

“The road is much busier than it used to be, and coupled with the fact that women in labour could be driven there by partners who will be nervous.”

The hospital's maternity unit was previously under threat in 1997 when more than 15,000 people signed a petition that demanded the Government continued full services there.

Hundreds of residents also headed to Westminster to make their views known to MPs.

Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust has apologised for stopping births at Harwich Hospital and called on residents to “bear with them” through the difficult time.


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