Council set for showdown with health bosses over temporary closure of baby units

South Tyneside's Labour councillors want answers over the temporary closure of the maternity unit and special care baby unit at the hospital
South Tyneside's Labour councillors want answers over the temporary closure of the maternity unit and special care baby unit at the hospital
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South Tyneside Labour party is set for a showdown with health bosses today over the temporary closure of two hospital units.

An emergency meeting of councillors was held on Friday to debate moves taken by South Tyneside Foundation Trust to suspend births within South Tyneside DIstrict Hospital’s maternity unit following the closure of the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU), until the New Year.

Ken Bremner.

Ken Bremner.

Hospital bosses say the decisions were taken due to staff shortages and on the advice of maternity experts.

Today, the Labour group is expected to meet with Ken Bremner, chief executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust armed with questions they want answers to.

Ruth Berkley, vice chair of South Shields Constituency Labour Party and chair of Women’s Health in South Tyneside, said, “Labour Party members are as shocked as everyone in South Tyneside at the announcement to suspend vital maternity services. There can hardly be anyone in the town who has not had direct or family contact with the local maternity unit. This provision is at the heart of our community.”

Ms Berkley added: “The staff working in the maternity unit have given their all to keep service provision in the hospital.

“The Labour Party and its activists are committed to making decision makers accountable to the residents of South Shields to ensure that we have quality healthcare that meets the needs of our communities.”

Councillors are set to question the trust on issues including staffing cover, details on the operation of the units over the last 12 months and any plans in place to take increased numbers of births at hospitals in Sunderland and Gateshead.

It comes after more than 100 people united in protest against the temporarily suspention of the services at the Harton Lane hospital on Friday.

Speaking following the demonstration, Dr Shaz Wahid, medical director at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust said: “We fully appreciate that the urgent temporary measures we have had to put in place this week to protect patient safety have come as upsetting news for patients, staff and the local community.

“It is our duty, however, to ensure the safety of mothers and babies in our care and this has been our primary focus through this urgent situation, as well as our duty of care to our staff. We will continue to keep all stakeholders fully updated as soon as we can on the situation.”