CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans to transport seriously ill babies to England are organising a “last stand”.
Cherish, a group supporting the special care baby unit at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, is staging a last-ditch protest and is calling on Wrexham AM and health minister Lesley Griffiths to halt the removal of long-term intensive care facilities.
The plans, approved by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board this month, will mean babies born under 27 weeks, or mothers in labour at that stage, will automatically be transferred to Arrowe Park, Wirral.
Cherish member Ruth Drake said: “It’s going to be a peaceful protest. We don’t want to be aggressive but we want to show the strength of feeling in the local area about the changes.
“Myself and other members of Cherish have been spearheading this campaign for more than two years.
“The decision to transfer (long-term) neonatal care to Arrowe Park is exactly what we are rallying against, so this is part of our last stand.”
Ruth said campaigners were planning a final demonstration to persuade Lesley Griffiths to step in and halt the process.
She said: “This is just waiting to be rubber-stamped now. We have put a lot of hard work in – we’ve collected thousands of letters, had meetings with MPs and AMs.
“We are still hoping to appeal directly to Lesley Griffiths to really think about whether she can overturn the decision or look at it again, anything that would halt it from happening.”
Ruth, whose daughter Elin was given vital medical care at the Maelor’s special care baby unit four years ago, said members of Cuddles, the equivalent charity at Glan Clwyd Hospital at St Asaph, would also be involved.
She said: “About 9,000 people signed our petition because they felt it meant something to them. If some of them came and showed their support for the campaign it would mean a lot.
“We would really, really encourage people to make a last stand because next month it will be too late and it will be over. We want to send the message that we still don’t accept the decision and we think it’s a big mistake.”
Marc Jones, former Wrexham councillor and a supporter of the Welsh Healthcare Alliance, a group fighting the centralisation of health care, said the protest was not just about the future of neonatal care, but was about the “whole shebang” including the controversial closure of Flint Hospital’s inpatient beds and minor injuries unit.
He said: “Now is the time for Lesley to show some leadership and step up. Lots of organisations have come out against these proposals.”
Yesterday, the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Association came together to make an unprecedented call for a rethink on the plans.
Helen Rogers, director of the Royal College of Midwives said: “We are concerned about the impact on women in labour who might have to be transferred, the psychological impact, the impact on breast feeding, the possible impact on postnatal depression, the impact of women being separated from their partners by distance.
“We are calling on the health board to just stop this and rethink the situation and to look at building the service in North Wales instead of starting to pull it apart.”
Ms Rogers added the three organisations were also prepared to appeal to Welsh ministers directly to review the decision.
A Welsh Government spokesman reiterated the only statutory provision for referrals lay with the Community Health Council, and that referrals would only be made to Lesley Griffiths AM as a last resort.
The protest will take place on Friday, February 8, outside Vernon House in Wrexham.
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