MP welcomes baby unit promise

By Roddy AshworthAN MP welcomed last night a health trust's pledge it would reopen a town's maternity unit in the spring.Ivan Henderson, the Labour MP for Harwich, said he thought Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust was “making progress” on restoring full maternity services to the baby unit at the town's hospital.

By Roddy Ashworth

AN MP welcomed last night a health trust's pledge it would reopen a town's maternity unit in the spring.

Ivan Henderson, the Labour MP for Harwich, said he thought Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust was “making progress” on restoring full maternity services to the baby unit at the town's hospital.

The trust has closed the Harwich Hospital maternity unit, saying it had to redeploy its staff to cover midwife shortages at Colchester General Hospital, where there are eight full-time posts vacant.


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At a meeting yesterday, Mr Henderson, representatives of Tendring Primary Care Trust, midwives and the Tendring Health Action Group were told the maternity unit would be reopened by March 1 at the very latest.

The promise was made by Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust chief executive, Mike Pollard, who added if new midwives were recruited before then, the baby unit could be reopened sooner.

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As well as new, experienced midwives being attracted to work at the maternity unit at Colchester General Hospital, a number of student midwives who are expected to qualify in January have indicated they want to join the trust and some existing midwives have also asked to have their hours extended.

Mr Henderson said: “Immediately after the temporary closure of the maternity unit, I summoned Mr Pollard to Westminster for discussions and a follow-up meeting in Colchester agreed the strategy for reopening the unit.

“I insisted that regular meetings to update all concerned took place and this is also happening. I am grateful to everyone who is playing a constructive role in this process.”

The East Anglian Daily Times is backing the call for full maternity services to be restored to Harwich Hospital and has launched a Save Our Baby Unit campaign.

Although the trust has cited staffing shortages at Colchester General Hospital as the reason for closure of the Harwich unit and has reiterated its pledge not to shut it permanently, a leaked letter suggested it was actually in danger of shutting on “clinical risk grounds”.

Steve Gunnell, chairman of pressure group Hands Off Our Hospital, criticised the health trust as “an absolute disgrace”.

He added: “First they said it was staff shortages. Then in a letter they said it was to do with clinical risk.

“They won't even meet with our campaign. They should be dealing with the public. It is the public who are concerned. We want the service reinstated.”

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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