Anger on the Causeway Coast with confirmation all births moving to Antrim Area Hospital
Causeway maternity campaigners have reacted angrily to a decision by the Department of Health to back a recommendation for all hospital births in the Northern Trust area to take place at Antrim Hospital.
The decision has been taken by the Department of Health’s Permanent Secretary Peter May “to ensure safe, consistent and sustainable care for mothers and babies in the Trust area”.
The Permanent Secretary stated: “This decision is in the best interests of mothers and babies in the Northern Trust area.”
However, leader of the Causeway maternity services campaign, Gemma Brolly, has reacted with “huge concern but not shock” to the decision.
In a statement, Mrs Brolly said: “Unelected civil servants are making serious decisions that impact the lives of everyone in our community and yet are not accountable to anyone.
“Over 17,000 people have signed our petition against this move. The consultation responses unanimously spoke out against the transfer of maternity services from Causeway Hospital to Antrim Area Hospital.”
A 14-week public consultation seeking views on the transformation of acute maternity services within the Northern Trust area was carried out between November 2022 and March.
Following the consultation, the board of the Northern Trust approved a recommendation that all hospital births should take place at Antrim Area Hospital.
Mrs Brolly added: “We have heard from so many mothers and staff themselves in both Antrim and Causeway who know this goes against everything they believe to be in the best interests of the community.”
She suggested that this reduction in services in Causeway Hospital has been “on the cards for years”.
“We have fought this all the way and we will continue to fight to overturn this decision. We are determined to continue to grow our campaign and fight to overturn this catastrophic decision.”
The Northern Health and Social Care Trust said that clinicians advised the provision of maternity services at Causeway Hospital was “unsustainable due to falling birth rates, workforce challenges, and the absence of a neonatal unit”.
“We welcome the decision of the Permanent Secretary to approve the recommendation of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust Board that all hospital births should take place at Antrim Area Hospital.
“Operationally, this will come into effect from 17 July and preparations are now underway to implement that decision. We strongly believe this is the best outcome for women and babies in our care.
“It will allow us to continue providing the highest standard of in-patient maternity care and births at one, dedicated site, with a safer, more sustainable staffing model.
“Any women who are due to give birth at Causeway Hospital will be contacted directly by the Trust. We have also set up a helpline to answer any queries from women who are due to give birth at Causeway.
“We recognise this has also been an uncertain time for our very dedicated team of maternity staff at Causeway Hospital and we will be supporting them through this period of transition.
“Causeway Hospital is a key part of the Trust’s acute hospital network and we remain committed to maintaining acute services and an Emergency Department at the site.
“We recognise that the hospital and its staff play a vital role in serving the local community, and we want to enhance rather than diminish that role. Causeway Hospital will retain its high quality antenatal and postnatal care which we recognise are critical local services for women.
“We will also be enhancing these services so that pregnant women will have access to complex antenatal care and clinics at Causeway Hospital.”