One cold day in 2004 I was walking through the centre of Bury and came across a large protest. People were milling about asking for signatures. The petitions were to try to save the local hospital's maternity unit, including special care baby unit. That hospital was Fairfield. Back in 2004 I hadn't met my husband. I was pretty much resigned to not having a baby, ever, so I certainly didn't think I would ever need the maternity unit and much less the special care baby unit. But, I felt it was essential to have local services so signed the peition.
At booking with the midwife I was given the choice of two hospitals, either Fairfield General or Salford Royal. Salford would require 1 bus and two trams to get to and fro, so I chose Bury, just two buses, and only 15 minutes by car.
This week, after a protracted fight, and several stays of execution the decision was made an handed down. Our hospital's maternity unit and special care baby unit will close in March 2012.
I am bereft. I think there are several reasons I am so upset about it. First and foremost, its sentimental. My son was born in that hospital, all my photos and videos were taken in that hospital. It was his home, and I love that hospital. My life was saved in that maternity unit.
I am scared for local women. The newspaper article is misleading. There are not 4 hospitals with in 7 miles, there are two, the other two options are birth centres, which are not suitable for all pregnant women. I would not, even if I'd gone to term, been a candidate for a birthing unit.
I am scared that had we had to travel further, whether I would have got to hospital in a timesly manner. When we rang at 3 in the morning we were urged to go straight in. Had we had to travel 30 minutes or so, would we have done it? I'm not sure. And it worries me.
And then the travel. All the article and the comments afterwards concentrate on are those straight forward births. One in nine babies are born prematurely, which means one in nine families, potentially have the wrench of being away from their babies. From many parts of Bury to get to either of the two hospitals is a journey that will require at least 2 and usually 3 buses, at a cost of £5 a day. That's a lot to ask, in my opinion.
And then there is the aftercare. Our unit was small, everyone knew us, I never felt scared to ring the unit after Joseph's discharge to ask silly questions, the staff at the local unit are always so happy to see us. It's a caring family unit, the care is second to none.
I can see a little of the reasoning of the NHS trust, to consoldiate services and modernise them, however, I think centralising is wrong, and has missed the mark. Local services are essential.
The fight isn't over, it continues, but I think the writing is well and truly on the wall.