The head of midwifery at Scarborough Hospital has moved to allay concerns raised by expectant mothers following the temporary closure of the midwife-led unit.
The £1m facility (MLU), which caters for women with low-risk pregnancies, closed on October 1 to allow maternity operating theatres to be upgraded.
Following the announcement of the five-month closure in August, campaigners launched an online petition amid fears it could be forced to permanently shut as a result of financial cutbacks.
But Liz Ross, head of midwifery and supervisor of midwives at York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Scarborough Hospital, is confident the MLU will re-open in March.
She said: “We are really optimistic about keeping and promoting midwife-led care and are looking forward to re-opening in the spring.
“People will always worry about it closing but we have been informed it is only for a 20-week period.”
Liz stressed that midwife-led care would still continue at the hospital’s labour ward, as well as at women’s homes, with the only difference being the environment.
“Midwife-led care can be done anywhere, but the MLU provides a nice relaxing environment with birthing pools and the safety of being close to extra care if needed,” she said.
“We have five other delivery rooms with en-suite bathrooms on the ward, but they just haven’t all got pools in them. We are utilising the equipment we can move, including a special low-platform bed.”
The ward offers one delivery room with a birthing pool and staff have installed mood lighting, complete with a star projector, in an attempt to replicate the MLU facilities.
“We have got one pool here, but unfortunately it can’t be used by more than one person at a time and there is always a chance it will be occupied,” said Liz.
“However, midwife-led care is about the midwives and the relationship with the women. We have always offered it in the labour ward and we don’t envisage a drop in numbers of women accessing this care.”
The temporary closure of the MLU was implemented due to the unit’s staff being needed to accompany patients to the main operating theatre while the refurbishment work is carried out.
“We can’t just recruit people and train people that quickly during the upgrade so we have to make this decision as it’s the safest way to do it,” said Liz.
MLU manager, Wendy Beagles, added: “I can’t deny we were sad when it closed because we have got a nice space there.
“But it’s a very warm and friendly environment on the ward and we have got a really brilliant team of midwives who can deliver midwife-led care.”
Julia Walsh, 35, from Crossgates, was originally booked into the MLU but gave birth to a baby boy in the labour ward’s birthing pool room on Tuesday.
She said: “I was devastated when I heard the about the temporary closure to be honest. I was really concerned.
“But it was such a positive experience and the midwives did a brilliant job and alleviated any concerns I had. There was no need to worry.”
Keen to reassure any worried expectant mothers, Liz added: “The same midwives will be looking after them. There is a facility on the labour ward of a pool room and a low-risk environment. And the important thing is the midwife-led care continues.”