Health chiefs to come under fire over plans for hospital closure

THE intense debate concerning the future of the closure-threatened Queen Mother’s maternity hospital in Glasgow will escalate this evening with a second public meeting.

Greater Glasgow NHS Trust will tonight host what is expected to be a stormy public meeting at the Radisson SAS hotel in Argyle Street to outline why it believes that the city’s three maternity hospitals should be rationalised to two, with provision in the south and west transferred to the Southern General hospital.

However, last night, campaigners opposed to the board’s preferred option of closing the Queen Mother’s held their own public meeting. A panel of clinicians, politicians and charities claimed that severing the link between the maternity hospital and the adjacent Royal Hospital For Sick Children at Yorkhill would threaten the safety of newborn babies.

Dr Alan Cameron, a consultant obstetrician and foetal medicine specialist at the Queen Mother’s said: "We have all the facilities here to look after babies with any problem either before or after birth.

"If you don’t have immediate access to paediatric surgery or cardiac treatment, then the health of these babies will be compromised because the transfer of sick babies does carry significant risks."

An expert panel appointed by the health board to examine which site should face closure concluded that the Southern General would provide better care for both mother and child.

A key plank to the health board’s argument is that mothers could access intensive care beds on-site at the Govan hospital, rather than being transferred from the Queen Mother’s.

However, Dr Cameron insisted that the number of mothers needing intensive care beds remains low, with five requiring transfer in the last year.

He added: "The health board focused on maternal health issues and the need for maternal intensive care, but that happens in very few mums each year. It’s not unusual to hear that there are no intensive care beds across the city, and sick mums are transferred to Kilmarnock or Paisley or further afield. I think the health board’s arguments on intensive care provision for mothers are very spurious."

If the Queen Mother’s is closed, however, Dr Cameron said that sick babies would be "shuttling across the city" several times a day.

Dagmar Kerr, a spokeswoman for Action for Sick Children, the charity which organised last night’s public meeting, said: "We are very concerned that the sickest children might lose out if the maternity facility is moved away from the Sick Children’s Hospital. It is an unique and ideal link for sick babies."

A three-month consultation by the health board will conclude on 20 February, with a decision expected by April.

The health minister, Malcolm Chisholm, would then ultimately rule on the closure of the Queen Mother’s if recommended by the board.

Sandra White, the SNP MSP for Glasgow, warned that closure would not be tolerated.

She said: "If the board decides to close the Queen Mother’s I’m sure that people will man the barricades to stop it happening. This is not just a backlash of public feeling, there is so much evidence, backed by the clinicians, which shows that the Queen Mother’s cannot be shut. The body of evidence is overwhelming and stacking up against the health board."

Ms White accused the board of being "entrenched in their views" and hiding behind a "sham of a public consultation".

No-one from Greater Glasgow NHS attended last night’s meeting, preferring instead, to put their case at tonight’s presentation.

Catriona Renfrew, the board’s director of planning and community care, said: "I don’t think that there is any sign of a consensus among the clinical staff in Glasgow.

"That is partly why the working group through the consultation process included clinical advice from outside Glasgow because it is easier for them to be objective about a very difficult choice."

Ms Renfrew remained adamant that no final decision would be made until the end of the consultation process.

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