The chairman of Save the DGH group has said the trust that runs the Eastbourne hospital seemed to be ‘firing from the hip’ after learning of the temporary closure of the Crowborough Birthing Centre.
The move was as a result of current staff shortages on the maternity unit at the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, which meant staff from Crowborough had to be drafted in there to help.
Back in May changes at the DGH meant it became at midwifery led maternity unit and saw consultant-led care centralised at Hastings.
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the DGH, said it was a temporary decision made on the grounds of safety. The Clinical Commissioning Groups will decide how the service should be arranged long term and have been monitoring the changes since May.
Liz Walke, who is chairman of the Save the DGH group, and has been behind high-profile marches against the downgrading of services at the hospital said it seemed East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust was ‘firing from the hip’ and making decisions with no ‘strategic direction’.
She added, “I would have thought they would have directed people to Eastbourne midwifery led unit but they have directed people to Hastings which makes me think they don’t want them to go to Eastbourne.
“People who wanted to use the Crowborough Birthing Unit are saying they don’t want to go to Hastings. They are likely to go north to Pembury as they are really upset and want the Birthing Unit to be under Pembury rather than ESHNT.”
However, this was disputed by an ESHNT spokesman who said a telephone message at Crowborough instructed people to ring Eastbourne Midwifery Unit or their nearest obstetric unit which in the case of someone from Crowborough would be Tunbridge Wells.
They added, “Due to current staff shortages on the maternity unit at Conquest Hospital in Hastings, the Trust has temporarily closed Crowborough Birthing Centre to enable staff from Crowborough to work at the Conquest.
“The staff shortages are a result of sickness, unavailability of bank staff due to school holidays and annual leave.
“We have recently recruited six newly qualified midwives who are waiting for their registrations to come through before starting work, and we are currently out to advert to recruit a further four midwives.
“On average, four women a week give birth at Crowborough, and any woman due to give birth at Crowborough over the weekend should contact their midwife if they have any concerns.
“Crowborough Birthing Centre will re-open at 8am on Monday (4th November).”