Staff illness keeps birthing unit shut
THE popular birthing unit at Hemel Hempstead Hospital has still not reopened. The low-risk unit which was opened in March 2003 when the main maternity services for West Herts which includes St Albans were transferred to Watford was closed down before
THE popular birthing unit at Hemel Hempstead Hospital has still not reopened. The low-risk unit which was opened in March 2003 when the main maternity services for West Herts - which includes St Albans - were transferred to Watford was closed down before Christmas because of staff illness. But even though it is now mid-January the unit has not reopened and mothers-to-be are still being referred to Watford to give birth. A spokesperson for the West Herts Hospitals Trust which runs the unit said this week that the situation was being monitored on a very regular basis but there were still staff illness problems. They were still regarding it as a temporary closure, she went on, due to long-term illness and other intermittent sick leave although the trust had employed 22 new midwives in the past few months. A call for the unit to be reopened has come from the St Albans overview and scrutiny NHS joint committee which met last week. The committee, which was specifically looking at maternity services at the meeting, also called for the ante-natal clinic at St Albans City Hospital to remain open. The issue of the construction of a new access road and improved car parking at Watford General before any further centralisation of services on the site was highlighted as well as the likely pressure on West Herts from any closure of maternity services at Welwyn Garden City's QEII Hospital. Said committee chair, Cllr Roma Mills: "Parents should be able to make real choice when it comes to deciding where their child is born - whether in a high-tech maternity unit, a birthing centre or at home. "This does mean we need to see the birthing centre at Hemel Hempstead reopen and we should continue to keep the option of a birthing centre in St Albans on the agenda.