Mums join protest against health board changes


Jennifer Meierhans

A MOTHER whose baby boy owes his life to dedicated doctors and nurses says proposed hospital cuts are a matter of life and death.

Shelley Brown, 25, from Parkside, Buckley, feels lucky her son Alfie survived after he was born 10 weeks early, weighing just 2lb 1oz.

Meanwhile, Samantha Fitzpatrick, 29, from Parkside, Buckley, is grateful for the chance doctors gave her son, James, who lost his fight for life after being born 16 weeks early, weighing just 1lb 9oz.

Their fears for other premature babies come after an outcry by community leaders yesterday that a major shake-up of health services would prove disastrous for the people of Flintshire.

Proposed hospital cuts are part of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s bid to claw back £64.6 million this financial year.

Protesters have turned out in their hundreds at consultation meetings against the plans.

Shelley spent eight weeks with Alfie at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, which is threatened by plans to move its long-term neo-natal intensive care facility to Arrowe Park, Wirral.

She said: “Luckily Alfie has no lasting health problems and is a very funny, happy, healthy boy now, considering the rough start he had. This is all thanks to staff at Wrexham because without them I wouldn’t have Alfie with me now.”

She added: “I live in Buckley and found it difficult to get to Wrexham every day due to having my daughter, Frankie, who was two at the time, with me at all times. Having Arrowe Park as a main special care baby unit would make it very hard for families to visit their babies.

“It would be a huge mistake, it’s a matter of life and death.”

Samantha, 29, from Megs Lane and her husband Craig moved into the hospital living quarters to be at James’s bedside.

He underwent a heart operation but his tiny body gave up after he contracted an infection.

Samantha said: “He died in our arms on September 28, he was eight weeks old.

“I could see the nurses and doctors were as upset as us, they were his family too, a few of them came to his funeral and even three years on many are still in contact with me and other members of my family.” We are bonded for life. We can’t thank them enough for all they did to support us throughout and for keeping James comfortable and believing in him and giving him a chance.

“All these babies deserve a chance and this is why it’s so important to keep the neo-natal intensive care facility at Wrexham.

“If we’d had to transfer James to a different hospital when he was born he probably wouldn’t have survived the journey. It was so nice to have him close to home so we could spend so much precious time with him. We have since had a daughter named Rosie, she is two years old, and her brother lives on through him.”

The mothers raised £1,412 for the special care baby unit at Wrexham Maelor.
They held a fundraiser at Buckley Working Men’s Club, attended by about 130 people. Grandfathers to little Alfie and James, John Aird, Ken Hughes, Brian Parry and Alan Brown pulled together to organise the night, with friend Derek Cairns on the door.

Health board response

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said special care baby units and high dependency care would be retained at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, Ysbyty Gwynedd and Glan Clwyd Hospital.

In a statement the board said: “The vast majority of neonatal services are staying in North Wales and will continue to be provided at all three acute hospitals.

“All hospitals will continue to stabilise babies needing short term intensive care and if they need longer term care they will be transferred to a specialist service.

“About 36 babies a year across North Wales need long term neonatal intensive care. We want to change how this care is provided, to bring a significant improvement to the quality of care provided to some of the smallest and most vulnerable babies to give them the best start in life.

“This care should be provided by a specialist team and it is proposed that these babies would be transferred to Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral.”

The board said it recognised “having a baby who needs neonatal intensive care is very difficult and stressful for families”.

It continued: “Not all babies requiring intensive care will need transfer to Arrowe Park. The majority will still receive all their care at one of the three existing neonatal units in North Wales.

“We understand travelling to distant hospitals poses many difficulties for families but believe families will accept this as they want the best care for their babies
“Families from North Wales are used to the need to travel for more specialised care such as at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool (eg paediatric intensive care; surgery; cardiology).

“Arrowe Park has modern facilities where parents can stay so they can be close to their babies at no cost to the family. As soon as babies become well enough they will be transferred back to the local neonatal unit who will continue their care.”

The statement ended: “Many specialist services are provided across North West England, eg Alder Hey for paediatric services.

“As with all our contracts with English providers, we will ask them to provide reasonable Welsh language services, and they have confirmed that they are able to do this.

“We are listening to the concerns that are being expressed and these will be considered before any final decision is made by the health board.”

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