It’s been revealed that Betsi Cadwaladr UHB (University Health Board) had to close the maternity wards in its three acute hospitals for 240 hours since 2015, following a Freedom of Information request made by the Welsh Conservatives.
The health board revealed that the maternity wards in Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan, and Wrexham Maelor Hospital have closed 26 times between January 2015 and August 2018.
Wrexham’s hospital had seen their maternity ward closed the longest in this total period of 119 hours and 15 minutes across seven closures.
The maternity ward in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd closed the most times – 11 – for a total of 67 hours. Meanwhile, Ysbyty Gwynedd shut their doors to new maternity patients for 53 hours and 35 minutes over eight closures. A total of 239 hours and 50 minutes between the three.
According to the BCUHB’s Maternity Unit Escalation Procedure referenced in the FoI response, possible reasons for closing the maternity ward include lack of essential resources, a lack of available beds or staff, and infection in the clinical areas.
The FoI release also showed that the number of midwives employed by the North Wales health board had fallen considerably in the last year from a headcount of 365 to 346 in 2017/18 (from 299.8 to 284.18 FTE).
It follows news that in August, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor Hospitals had reported the worst A&E waiting times on record for an individual Welsh hospital.
Betsi Cadwaladr UHB has been in special measures and, thus, under Welsh Government control for over three years, with no indication that the status will change soon.
Commenting, the Party’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Angela Burns AM said:
“Recently, the shocking and tragic series of infant deaths in the Cwm Taf Health Board came to light. Considering those events alongside the high number of these ward closures in North Wales, it is clear something is wrong with maternity services in this country.
“Although closing the wards to new admissions when there is a risk to patient safety was absolutely the right thing to do, the fact that the wards were allowed to fall into such a state is deeply concerning.
“The way the Welsh Labour Government have let North Wales’ NHS services decay like this is a disgrace which they seem shamelessly unbothered about as their current and former health secretaries are distracted by their leadership campaigns.
“The people of North Wales are being treated like second-class citizens by this Welsh Labour administration, and I am certain their anger will be demonstrated at the next election.”