Expectant mothers turned away
Flagship hospital forced to close to new admissions because labour wards full
PREGNANT women on the verge of giving birth had to be turned away from an overcrowded maternity unit in an unprecedented shutdown of the facility.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has apologised after a spike in admissions and string of complicated childbirths at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH), Govan, resulted in expectant mothers being sent to have their babies elsewhere.
However, it is understood the crisis comes amid trade union concerns over a ban on using bank staff to cover weekend and evening overtime.
Before yesterday’s events a meeting had already been scheduled for next week between Unison activists and local management to discuss the problem.
Matt McLaughlin, regional organiser for Unison in Glasgow, said: “This latest issue would appear to support our continuing concerns with staffing levels across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and you have to question the board’s proposals to close maternity units in other communities at a time when, clearly, they don’t have enough staffing or the ability to cope at the Queen Elizabeth.”
Concerns have previously been raised after figures showed a 27 per cent cut in maternity beds across the health board between 2012 and 2015.
NHS bosses moved to reduce bed numbers in 2010 because “bed occupancy was low at the time”.
Yesterday’s decision to halt admissions comes amid warnings that proposals to axe two community maternity units at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Alexandria and Inverclyde Royal Hospitals will pile pressure on existing services.
Under the plans, which will have to be approved by the Scottish Government, mothers would instead give birth at the Royal Alexandra in Paisley or Glasgow’s Princess Royal Maternity Hospital and QEUH.
Expectant mothers arriving at the QEUH maternity unit from early yesterday morning were forced to wait hours in maternity wards because all of the 12 labour rooms and both operating theatres were full. In some cases patients were having contractions minutes apart on a packed maternity ward, while still waiting to be transferred to a labour bed.
By lunchtime, others were being turned away and sent to the Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Princess Royal Maternity as the maternity wards also ran out of beds.
Among the patients sent elsewhere was a woman arriving for a planned Caesarean section who had already been fasting for 24 hours.
It is the first time since the unit completed a £28 million revamp in December 2009 that it has been forced to close to new admissions.
The health boards said no patients were endangered and the unit re-opened at about 5pm.
There has been an exceptional rise in babies being delivered at the QEUH, it is understood.
Mary Ross-Davie, director of the Royal College of Midwives Scotland, stressed the decision to close the unit was right to “put patient safety first”.
She added: “We are aware of recent pressures. There seems to have been a rise in the number of births at the QEUH in recent months. We’ve been raising that locally with management to make sure staffing levels match that level of activity, so that the number of staff on, the number of midwives working, are
always safe.” She said it was unclear what was driving the spike in births.
A spokeswoman for NHSGGC said: “We have an arrangement where we use our three maternities to manage peaks in demand across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
“The divert – to the nearby Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Princess Royal Maternity – was put in place due to a high number of admissions to the QEUH and a number of women and babies developing complications.
“We arranged for three women to be admitted to other maternity hospitals in our area and a further two women had their planned procedures safely deferred for a matter of hours. Patient safety was maintained at all times. We would like to apologise to anyone to whom this caused any distress.”
The QEUH, which is based in Govan, is built on the site of the former Southern General Hospital.
Due to its star-shaped design, it was nicknamed the “Death Star” on opening in April 2015.