The unit is currently closed due to staffing issues and it is unclear when or how this issue will be resolved, Sinead McLaughlin, of the SDLP, says.
The Foyle rep added: “This is yet another example of how women have been let down in our health service and how our needs must be prioritised as part of the transformation of the healthcare system through a funded Women’s Health Strategy. I appreciate the Trust has made efforts to increase the number of midwives in training and am deeply cognisant of the many competing pressures on its resources. However, it’s also fair to say that women too often face a postcode lottery when it comes to accessing their services and women in the North West feel this particularly acutely.”
Ms. McLaughin noted that 90 per cent of respondents to her recent healthcare survey felt that there was inadequate service provision available for the biggest healthcare issues facing women. She also reaffirmed the need for a new Executive to be formed to tackle these issues.
A spokesperson for the Western Trust said: “Unfortunately, the Midwife Led Unit at Altnagelvin Hospital is currently not open due to shortages of midwives. There is a shortage of midwives regionally and the Trust has increased the number of midwives in training in an attempt to improve the recruitment of staff. Women still receive Midwife led care at Altnagelvin Hospital in the Delivery suite. Midwife led care is also available in the antenatal and postnatal period.”
In a letter to Ms McLaughlin, Permanent Secretary and HSC Chief Executive Peter May, stated: “The WHSCT took the decision to temporarily close the alongside MLU at Atlnagelvin Hospital in response to pressures arising from the Covid pandemic, specifically that the facility was designated as an area for treating Covid positive patients.
"As the pandemic eased, this facility was no longer needed for this purpose but unfortunately, due to a shortfall in the midwifery workforce, the Trust was not able to safely reopen the unit. This was a local operational decision by the Trust, who have confirmed that it intends to re-open the MLU at Altnagelvin as soon as midwifery-staffing levels are available to provide safe and effective care.”