Plea for return of maternity services to Galloway Community Hospital

A concerned councillor is demanding the reinstatement of maternity services in the west of the region to prevent mothers giving birth en route to hospital.

There has only been one planned birth at Galloway Community Hospital since 2018
There has only been one planned birth at Galloway Community Hospital since 2018

Mid Galloway and Wigtown West councillor Jackie McCamon has hit out over “inequity and equality of service” – and expressed fears over the safety of women and unborn babies.

This is due to several cases where women from Wigtownshire have given birth in cars and ambulances before making it to Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.

Councillor McCamon called for all options to be explored to have babies delivered at Galloway Community Hospital in Stranraer again.

She will table a motion at Tuesday’s full council meeting, which reads: “Galloway Community Hospital Action Group (GCHAG) has discovered that since 2018 there has only been one planned birth at Galloway Community Hospital’s maternity unit.

“This has meant pregnant mothers in Wigtownshire having to travel more than 75 miles for all out of hours midwifery care and other attendances.

"“Births have occurred in transit, and all are subjected to unnecessary emotional and physical distress.“Given the duration of transport in patients who have not been clinically assessed, this can put the lives of the woman and child at additional risk, not to mention the driver who will be distracted and other road users.”

Health chiefs argue that recruiting midwives is a problem not just locally, but nationally.

Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership says it is working with Edinburgh Napier University, which is offering a two-year midwifery programme to qualified nurses.A spokesman said: “A concern over insufficient midwifery staff to sustain a safe out of hours rota meant that the option of giving birth in the Clenoch Birthing Centre in Galloway Community Hospital has not been available since 2018, and unfortunately remains the present situation.

“Births can obviously take place at any time of the day or night, which requires sufficient, qualified midwifery staff to be sure of being able to fully staff a birthing facility 24 hours a day, across weekends, holiday periods, etc.

“There is a new Scottish Perinatal Network transport group that is reviewing the remote and rural transport processes nationally, to co-ordinate an approach to the safe transfer of women in labour, of which Dumfries and Galloway maternity services and the Scottish Ambulance Service are represented.

“In the meantime, we are providing antenatal and postnatal care, inclusive of both high risk consultant-led care and low risk midwifery care.

“This has been an enhanced level of service in Wigtownshire since 2020, with the ability to provide scheduled ultrasound scans from The Oak Tree Family Centre in Stranraer. This has reduced the need for travel for women during their pregnancy.

“NearMe and virtual consultations are increasing the ability to deliver consultations and reduce travel impact on the local community. Work is currently taking place looking at supporting home births.”