Imagine the scene, you are 27 weeks pregnant, your at work, and your feeling a bit weird, what started as tightenings are now quite severe pains, and they are regular. No, surely not, it couldn't possibly be contractions? Not now? It's too soon.
You decide to go to hospital to be checked over. Your husband has dropped everything and is by your side. One doctor comes in, followed by another, your cervix is checked. You are 7 centimetres dilated. There is nothing they can do, your baby is going to arrive......soon.
Behind the scenes, staff start making calls. They call downstairs. The special care baby unit is full. They call the next hospital "sorry we can't manage babies under 30 weeks". The phone calls continue, and finally someone comes to see you. "I am sorry, there is no accommodation in the local area, we have an ambulance on the way, you are to be transferred to Manchester". You panic, 3 hours drive away. The ambulance arrives and you leave, in labour.
All is well, the baby is stabilised, and progresses well. You live in the local Ronald Macdonald House, your husband has faced the agonising decision and has decided to go back to work. You see him at weekends, he goes all week without seeing the baby. The bills are too high for him to even consider taking unpaid leave.
After 4 weeks the baby is stable enough to return to a local unit, and again the phonecalls start to try and find a cot closer to home. There are days of waiting, of disappointment, and then finally the call comes.
The above scenario has happened to more people than I would care to name. Sometimes transfers are required for medical reasons, the baby has needs that can't be met locally. More often there is just no room at the inn, and the unit is at capacity. I'm not a doctor, or an administrator. I have no idea what the answer is, and I doubt that the need for transfers could every be elminated. But its heartbreaking. Imagine in that scenario if there were older siblings? What if the mum had triplets and the babies had to be split? It happens, it really does, that babies cannot be moved together and are in seperate hospitals.
In our case, we weren't transferred. I can't tell you how grateful I am that our local hospital pulled out all stops to accommodate us. I do know that decision meant that other babies had to be transferred to other hospitals.
What is known is that units are understaffed, there is a shortage of neonatal nurses. If this need could be met, more units could run at capacity and prevent some of these transfers. I hope there is an answer, and a response to this problem.