Fears for the birthing facility were raised by the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign (SSTHC) group, which also claimed its reopening had been delayed “several times” since it was closed on January 4.
But the latest shutdown has prompted fears the temporary measure could become permanent if a solution is not found.
“The reasons given are staffing issues, sickness and Covid. The chief executive said that it cannot open until it is safe to do so,” SSTHC said in a statement announcing a public meeting on the issue, scheduled for 6.30pm on Monday, May 9, at Ocean Road Community Association, in South Shields.
"We are concerned that the people of South Tyneside were told that by downgrading their full maternity service in 2018 from a full service to a midwife-led birthing unit, that these services would now be ‘safe and sustainable’.
"This was part of the ‘Path to Excellence’ programme and during the consultation SSTHC had pointed out and predicted that downgrading our full maternity service at South Tyneside District Hospital would lead to less safe and less sustainable maternity services for the people of South Tyneside.”
Last year, trust bosses celebrated the birth of 400 babies at the midwife-led unit since it opened in 2019.
Melanie Johnson, executive director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals (AHPs) at STSFT, said: “Unfortunately, we still have staffing challenges within our maternity services. This means a lot of our midwives can’t work at the moment due to COVID-19 and other short and long-term sickness.
“As we manage these workforce pressures, all births are taking place in Sunderland. This is so that we have enough midwives on duty 24/7 to provide safe care for everyone.
“Our Midwifery Led Birthing Centre (MLBC) in South Tyneside is a vital part of our maternity services. There is no question about that. Since it opened in 2019 we’ve had fantastic feedback. I am confident it will bounce back even stronger as soon as we get through this difficult period”.