Health bosses have come under fire after staff shortages forced an immediate ‘temporary’ halt to the delivery of babies at South Tyneside District Hospital.
The move - from 8am this morning - comes five days after bosses took the decision to temporarily close the hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit.
In all 165 women who were booked in to have their babies delivered at the unit up until January 15, are being contacted to make alternative arrangements for the births.
The trust say the decision was taken following “clear advice” from independent maternity experts.
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck hit out at the latest decision by South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust.
She said: “I said only a few days ago that we were moving towards there being no babies being born in South Tyneside and it is now becoming a reality. I’m angry and I think people are being badly let down by what’s happening in South Tyneside.
“They are saying mams to be can go elsewhere, but the closest places are in Sunderland and Gateshead and you need a car to get back and forwards or a number of buses - it’s just ridiculous.
“I have already sent a letter to the chief executive calling for answers after the announcement of the Special Care Baby Unit closure, and will be writing again asking more questions in regards to this latest announcement.”
Dr Shahid Wahid, medical director at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust said: “This has been a very difficult decision and I would like to thank colleagues from around the region’s NHS for their advice and support over the past few days.
“Although we have been able to put urgent safety protocols in place for a very small number of low risk deliveries since the suspension of our SCBU service on Thursday, this is not something which can be sustained.
“The very clear and resounding advice that we have now had from maternity and neonatal experts around the region is that we need to pause all births so that we can ensure further robust processes are developed for low risk deliveries at South Tyneside Hospital during the suspension of SCBU services.”
He added: “We recognise this is very upsetting news for our staff, patients and the local community but the clinical safety of women and babies in our care simply must come first.”
A demonstration by the Save the South Tyneside Hospital Campaign group took place outside Sunderland Royal Hospital on Friday in protest to the temporary closure of the Special Care Baby Unit. The group want answers over what the Trust is planning to do to ensure the unit is fully staffed.