No room at the inn? Maternity campaigners post sarcastic letter to Shropshire health chief
Health campaigners have written an open letter to a hospital boss over a crisis in maternity care, suggesting he check local stables "that might have a manger or two going spare".
The sarcastic comment comes as it emerged Royal Shrewsbury Hospital's midwife-led unit is likely to be closed for births and inpatient care until the end of January after snow damaged its roof.
Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust said contractors will not even be asked on to the site until early January to assess the damage.
Today a joint letter from four campaigners was sent to hospitals chief executive Simon Wright (read the full letter below).
It demands action to help expectant mothers in the county who have been told that if they give birth before the Shrewsbury unit reopens they must either travel to Telford or have it delivered at home.
Bridgnorth, Ludlow and Oswestry midwife-led units have already been closed to births because of staff shortages and the campaigners say: "We do not believe the risk is acceptable."
Hospital bosses insist there will be "no adverse effects" from the closure of Shrewsbury's maternity unit.
While the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital will continue to host maternity outpatient appointments, only Telford's Princess Royal Hospital will accommodate births.
Jo Banks, women and children’s care group director, said: “The extreme weather conditions have caused damage to part of the roof and as a result we have unfortunately had to temporarily suspend all of our in-patient services at the midwife-led unit in Shrewsbury, including deliveries.
“An increasing number of women are choosing to give birth at our consultant-led unit in Telford, rather than at our midwife-led unit, with 85 per cent of local women giving birth there in 2016/17.
“The relatively low number of births at our midwife-led unit means we do not anticipate any adverse effect on either our Wrekin midwife-led unit or the consultant-led unit at the Princess Royal Hospital.
"However, as with all areas of our hospitals, we have contingency plans in place should we face unexpectedly high levels of demand."
The county's rural maternity units in Ludlow, Oswestry and Bridgnorth, shut in July because of staff shortages.
They are expected to reopen next year, but there will not be facilities for women to given birth at the units.
The campaigners' letter in full:
We note that births are now suspended at Shrewsbury MLU, due to adverse weather conditions causing damage to the roof.
SaTH’s news release notes that births are expected to be suspended until mid to late January.
We know, and you know, that Telford routinely struggles to find enough maternity beds. Our view is that women and babies are already being put at risk by the closure of Bridgnorth, Ludlow and Oswestry MLUs.
We do not believe it is acceptable to increase the level of risk by removing further maternity beds from the system, nor to make women travel even greater distances to give birth safely.
It seems to us that there are two possibilities now. One is that SaTH behaves with some basic decency and immediately re-opens our rural maternity units. The other is that pregnant women in Shropshire start sharing the addresses of local stables that might still have a manger or two going spare.
If you go down the ‘No Room at the Maternity Unit’ route, please be mindful that SaTH is increasingly breaching its duty of care to expectant mothers and their babies.
Bobbie Brown, Save Bridgnorth Maternity Unit
Liz Grayson, Save Oswestry Maternity Unit
Alison Hiles, Save Ludlow Maternity Unit
Gill George, Shropshire Defend Our NHS