Protest over Withybush Hospital baby unit closure plan

Protesters oppose hospital special care baby unit closure plans

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Dozens of people have taken part in a protest against proposed changes to health services for sick and premature babies in west Wales.

Up to 70 people carried banners and posters outside outside Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.

Hywel Dda Health Board says its special baby care unit does not meet national standards and proposes centralising the service at Carmarthen.

It said it aimed to provide a "higher level service much closer to home".

The demonstrators unveiled banner and posters with the words "Save Our SCBU" [Special Care Baby Unit].

This was the second of three planned protests.

Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies joined the demonstration. He has started a petition with MP Stephen Crabb to oppose the proposal to close SCBU.

The health board provides healthcare to around 372,320 patients throughout Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

It currently has level one neonatal care units at Glangwili and at Withybush which provide the basic level of care, along with a nurse-led neonatal unit at Bronglais General Hospital in Aberystwyth.

Babies who need more complex care, provided at a level two neonatal unit, or intensive care, have to travel to hospital in Swansea or further afield.

For people living in the Aberystwyth area, this can mean around a two-hour, 50 mile drive.

'Preferred option'

The proposed new unit would be co-located with a complex obstetric unit, for women with an identified risk with their pregnancies

The health board is consulting on the plans - part of NHS reorganisation in Wales - and said it would welcome feedback from members of the public.

It says its preferred option would be to site the new unit at Glangwili, which would mean the closure of the current baby care unit at Withybush, although the nurse-led unit at Bronglais would stay open.

But it is also considering putting the unit at Withybush and closing the current unit at Glangwili.

A health board spokesman said: "We will not take risks with - nor compromise - the safety of our children and babies.

"However, currently none of our special care baby units fully comply with British Association for Perinatal Medicine guidelines and All Wales neonatal standards."

It said its plans would provide a higher level service much closer to home and within Hywel Dda Health Board's boundaries for the first time.

"This means babies do not have to travel so far and will get the high levels of care available in other areas of the UK," said the spokesman.

The health board stressed that Withybush Hospital would retain the ability to stabilise and transfer mothers and babies, with obstetric and paediatric doctors and paediatric nursing staff for babies.

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