Protests over maternity care move from Withybush hospital

Protester Angela Mathias, from Neyland, said her granddaughter had been treated at Withybush

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About 600 protesters gathered at Withybush Hospital in Pembrokeshire to protest against plans to transfer neonatal services to Glangwili in Carmarthen.

Campaigners, carrying banners and placards, fear the proposals could lead to the further downgrading of services.

Hywel Dda Health Board says the plans are part of the wider reorganisation.

It said there was a need for trainee paediatric doctors working nights on call to be based at one hospital.

Protesters held signs reading "No Withybush Downgrade" during Saturday's demonstration, which lasted about 30 minutes.

Police officers attended to ensure access to the hospital to ambulances, patients and visitors was not restricted.

Staff were told in November that consultant and doctor-led care at the maternity unit in Withybush would end March.

It is believed that a midwifery-led service will remain at the hospital, but all complex births and any involving complications will have to be transferred to Carmarthen or further afield.

A spokesman for Hywel Dda health board said its intention is for all neonatal services to be provided from Glangwili Hospital, a proposal supported by an expert panel of clinicians.

"This is because there is now a deanery requirement for trainee paediatric doctors to work their nights on call on a single site and our paediatricians in Withybush Hospital have raised their concerns about the sustainability of the local service with several vacancies we have been unable to fill.

"The university health board has listened to these concerns and we therefore need to put plans in place for the majority of the service to be provided from a single site."

The board said if it felt unable to maintain full paediatric rotas across the three current sites - Bronglais, Withybush and Glangwili - then the service in the south of the region would be provided from Glangwili Hospital.

"Our intention remains to retain a paediatric, gynaecology and obstetric presence at Withybush Hospital, however this remains subject to further discussion with the scrutiny panel and clinicians," added the spokesman.

Health Minister Mark Drakeford could also face legal action over the decision.

An application has been made for a judicial review to investigate Mr Drakeford's approval of the health board's plans.

The Welsh government has said it is aware of the legal challenge, while Hywel Dda health board has previously said that it had fully complied with its legal obligations.

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