Revealed: Patient overflow forces maternity closure

Date published: 16 February 2009

A patient overflow at Rochdale Infirmary has forced the Maternity ward to close its doors “numerous” times.

A spokesman from Pennine Acute Trust confirmed that the birthing ward had no choice but to close to some mothers-to-be because there were simply not enough beds to go around.

The closures ranged from four hours to almost a full day.

Rochdale Online reported last week how staff are failing to cope because there are “more people than beds”, leaving the overspill to travel to Oldham, Bury or North Manchester.

Last Monday, crisis beds were placed in Sparthfield unit to try and cope with the volume of patients.

A spokesman for the Trust, which runs Rochdale Infirmary, North Manchester, Fairfield and Royal Oldham hospitals said: "Closing maternity units to new admissions is done in response to high levels of clinical activity at a particular time.

"On two occasions between 3 November and 1 February our maternity units diverted women from Rochdale Infirmary to a hospital outside the Trust.

"The main reasons for diverts being necessary were bed capacity caused by high numbers of women attending the units at a particular time, the need to transfer a mother-to-be who is going to deliver a baby that needs neonatal intensive care and staffing issues."

Statistics obtained by the Conservatives have shown 553 maternity ward closures in England, up 38 per cent from 402 in 2007.

Rochdale MP Paul Rowen said: "This news illustrates my point that the estimates of births used to justify closing the Infirmary’s maternity unit have proved to be wildly inaccurate and things will only get worse with the recent increase in births that we are witnessing. These figures are unacceptable and are a clear indication of the terrible neglect by Labour towards our maternity unit.”

Councillor Jean Ashworth said: "The last thing any new mum or dad needs to hear is that there isn’t a bed available and that is the case in all four of our hospitals in the Pennine Acute.

"This just proves that the figures quoted in the reconfiguration process in 2007 are not correct with the number of babies being born in Rochdale today, our population is growing.

"The situation is the same with beds for our elderly across the trust they are suffering long and traumatic delays through a lack of beds and services already removed from Rochdale our most vulnerable are being hit the hardest."

"This is going to get worse and I dread to think of what will happen when the Infirmary and Fairfield are downgraded and this is why it needs a serious re-think by the PCT,Pennine Acute, Strategic Health Authority and this government to look again and take onboard the reality of the much needed review of plans to turn the Infirmary into an Urgent Care Centre when figures prove our population is on the increase."

Councillor Dale Mulgrew, the council’s health leader, said he was monitoring the situation affecting Burnley General and Royal Blackburn Hospitals.

Councillor William Hobhouse said: "After speaking to members of staff I know that the closure of Burnley’s A&E is already having a massive effect on the services at Rochdale. I have spoken. We have to work together to put a strong case across to Mr Johnson to show him that the decision has already been proven to be the wrong one.”

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