Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

A meeting between members of the Galloway Hospital Action Group and local MSPs with Scottish Women’s Health Minister Maree Todd must lead to the Scottish Government giving its backing to the return of inpatient births at the Galloway Hospital, according to South Scotland Labour MP Colin Smyth.

The initial meeting was supposed to take place at the Galloway Hospital in Stranraer but will now take place online this Friday. The meeting, requested by the Galloway Hospital Action Group supported by a cross party group of local MSPs initially with the Cabinet Secretary for Health Humza Yousaf, is to discuss the midwife recruitment problems which led to midwife led births being suspended at the Clenoch Birthing Centre four years ago.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth raised the issue in with the Health Minister in Parliament recently and wrote to Maree Todd urging her to meet with local MSPs and the local Galloway Hospital Action Group urgently following the commitment made in Parliament that she was taking an interest in resolving the matter.

During the exchange in Parliament Colin Smyth said, “It is four years—long before the pandemic—since in-patient births at the Galloway were halted because poor workforce planning meant that we had a chronic shortage of midwives. The minister will know that, in rural areas, not being able to fill even a couple of vacancies can mean that a service does not exist at all.

Does the minister agree that it is utterly unacceptable that women in Wigtownshire face the real fear of having to give birth in a lay-by en route to hospital in Dumfries, which is two hours away, because the community maternity unit on their doorstep is closed? More importantly, will he say what specific action the Scottish Government is taking to ensure that we have the midwives who are needed in rural communities? Women in Galloway should not be treated differently just because they live in a rural area.”

In response Health Minister Kevin Stewart said, “The Scottish Government expects all boards to provide maternity services that are delivered as close to home as possible, including the option of home birth services. However, that has to be balanced with ensuring the safety of mothers and babies when they need access to hospital maternity and neonatal services.

Under this Government, the number of nurses and midwife’s has grown.  I recognise that there are difficulties in recruitment in certain parts of the country. My colleague Maree Todd is working on that. She is taking a close interest in the situation, and I am sure that she will be willing to speak further with Mr Smyth to ensure that progress is made”.

Commenting ahead of the meeting on Friday Colin Smyth said, “It’s disappointing that the Minister has pulled out of a visit to the Galloway Hospital and instead wants a virtual meeting as she could have seen for herself that we have the facilities there for inpatient births at the Clenoch Birthing Centre. The problem we face is the fact that there was a midlife recruitment crisis in Scotland even before the pandemic which has been getting worse. That crisis is particularly challenging in rural areas where recruitment is more difficult. We need a clear message from the Health Minister that the Government are committed to the service being reinstated and an outline of what specific action they are taking to support the recruitment of midwifes in the region. It’s simply unacceptable not to have such a service for an area the size of Wigtownshire and a scandal that four years on from what was described as the temporary suspension of the service, mums to be are still having to travel to Dumfries”.

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