PREMATURE babies born in North Wales could be cared for in Wirral, under proposals put forward by health bosses in Wales.
The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is reviewing neonatal care and has suggested that the sickest and most vulnerable babies should be cared for at Wirral Women and Children’s Hospital, on the Arrowe Park Hospital site.
It would see babies born at less than 27 weeks gestation – or with a birth weight of less than 1kg – cared for in Wirral.
It is estimated approximately 36 babies each year would need to transfer to Wirral, with an additional “very small number of older babies” who required “complex intensive care”.
Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust confirmed the plans but said they were still subject to public consultation.
A briefing paper on the proposals said: “The proposal would see only a proportion of babies requiring intensive care being transferred to Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral.
“Although North Wales would no longer have a designated Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) some intensive care would still be provided at the two local neonatal units at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and Wrexham Maelor.
It said as soon as babies became well enough they would be transferred back to their local neonatal unit in north Wales to continue their care.
The proposals have been criticised by the BMA and the Royal College of Nursing in Wales (RCN) over fears it would result in an “exodus” of experienced neonatal staff from north Wales to Wirral.
The BMA’s North Clwyd division said the number of babies affected had been underestimated and it could be double the board’s estimate of 36.
The briefing paper says that in some cases, mums would be transferred to Arrowe Park to have their babies because it would be safer for very small babies to be born in the unit.
It added that Arrowe Park would provide Welsh language facilities for families.
A spokesman for Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “Betsi Cadwallader University Health Board (BCUHB) are currently reviewing neonatal intensive care service provision.
“It has been proposed that neonatal care for the sickest and most vulnerable babies should be provided by Wirral Women and Children’s Hospital which is a designated level three neonatal intensive care unit.
“There are around 7,300 births per annum in North Wales of which it is anticipated 36 babies would need to transfer to Wirral.
“The proposal is still subject to the outcome of the public consultation process, and dependent upon this, Wirral Women and Children’s Hospital would recruit additional staff as necessary.”