Causeway Maternity Unit is ‘under threat’

editorial image

WILL local expectant mothers and their families allow closure of their local consultant-led Causeway Hospital Maternity Unit? WILL local expectant mothers and their families allow closure of their local consultant-led Causeway Hospital Maternity Unit?

That’s the question being posed by representatives of the Causeway Hospital Campaign in a statement this week.

Following a recent maternity review the emphasis is moving away from consultant-led care, which is expensive, to community care, led by General Practioners (GPs) and midwives. It would place emphasis on pre-conception, anti-natal and post-natal care.

Causeway Hospital Maternity Unit is being threatened with closure within the next three to five years. It has a dedicated team, led by 4 consultant Obstetricians and experienced midwives.

A statement on the issue from the campaign team said: “GPs have not been involved in pre-natal care for more than 10 years and yet they would be the cornerstone of the review.

Causeway Maternity is a high risk, consultant–”led unit which provides a safe place for local expectant mothers. The unit delivers mothers with complications of pregnancies and medical problems such as diabetes melitus, hypertension etc.

“Only mothers with significant heart problems or congenital foetal malformations are transferred to the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Belfast. Women with gestation diabetes melitus who are on insulin are transferred to Antrim Hospital for delivery. If mothers are likely to deliver before 35 weeks, they are transferred to a unit with an available special-care baby cot.

“The Causeway Maternity Unit should be staffed by sufficient doctors and midwives to provide a low level of care for babies requiring for example, IV fluids, rather than transferring them to other hospitals.

“In the last five years, the deliveries at Causeway have increased from 1,000 to 1,450 per year. This is despite a reduction in medical and midwifery staff.

“Antrim Hospital has eight consultant obstetricians. The birth rate in Antrim has dropped from 3000 to 2600 per year.”

Referring to the meting out of resources the campaigners say: “Causeway Hospital became part of the Northern Trust in 2007. Since then the hospital has been deprived of resources, which have all gone to Antrim Hospital, for example recruitment of staff and purchase of medical equipment e.g. a MRI Scanner which has just been allocated to Antrim, rather than to the Causeway. Should this allocation have been made during the current consultation?

“With the closure of the Mid-Ulster Hospital, all the medical staff were allocated to Antrim and none to Causeway, despite acquisition of some patients for that region.

“Both the medical and clinical directors are based in Antrim. How well can they be aware of the needs in Causeway Maternity Unit?

“A mother found to present a problem during labour, would be transferred, requiring up to an hour of travel at a critical stage. Will babies die unnecessarily?

“Will there be at best, maternal distress and at worst, maternal death because of the lack of Consultant-led care, within a reasonable, safe range? This is particularly worrying for mothers in the Ballycastle region.

“For Causeway Maternity Unit to run safely and to effectively serve its population, it should be staffed adequately, by both midwives and medical staff.”