Page last updated at 06:17 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 07:17 UK

Mother's fight for neonatal unit

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Zoe Walters is fighting for the future of the Royal Glamorgan Hospital's neonatal unit

Zoe Walters is looking forward to celebrating her son's first birthday - and campaigning to ensure the future of the hospital unit that saved his life.

Her son Louis was born after just 24 weeks of her pregnancy at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant, weighing in at only 1lb 13ozs (0.8kg).

But the hospital is currently closed to new admissions needing intensive neonatal care, due to staffing issues.

That has prompted Louis' mother to help organise a campaign to save the unit.

"Babies born at my son's age [24 weeks gestation] are having to be transferred all over the UK," explained Ms Walters.

"If a parent lives in Cardiff and has to travel to Bristol to see their child it's awful."

She said she knew of one mother who had been transferred to a specialist baby unit in Glasgow.

Baby Louis in hospital after premature birth
Baby Louis was born at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital weighing 1lb 13ozs

"The staff at the unit are so devoted. It's not just a job to them, they become like a family," she added.

The staffing problems at the Royal Glamorgan mean that in practice, babies born before a 30-week gestation period must be admitted elsewhere.

Cwm Taf NHS Trust said this was a temporary measure to ensure patient safety because of a national problem in recruiting middle grade medical staff.

The trust said decisions on additional funding were being made shortly which should enable the neonatal service to return to normal.

"The trust has been in close contact with Health Commission Wales who are responsible for commissioning neonatal services and it is expected that decisions on additional funding and clarity upon future service provision will be made within the next week," the trust said in a statement.

"This should ease recruitment difficulties and enable the trust to return to level three service provision [the highest level of care]."

Campaign

Young Louis Walters is now 11-months-old and weighs 23lb (10.4kg), and Ms Walters is determined to fight for the neonatal unit's survivals.

She has helped organise a protest which will be held in Pontypridd on Saturday.

More than 3,000 people have also signed up to a group Ms Walters set up on social networking site Facebook.

However, a spokesperson for the Welsh Assembly Government said care for sick babies would continue at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and the unit would not close.

"Plans to enhance care for the most sick babies in Wales were endorsed by clinicians following a review of neonatal services," said the spokesperson.

"This recommended the development of four neonatal intensive care units in Wales.

"These units would be at the University Hospital of Wales [in Cardiff], Singleton Hospital, Swansea, Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan.

"The current maternity units, including the Royal Glamorgan, Llantrisant will continue to provide intensive care for short periods, but with improved care at the four neonatal intensive care units, capacity to care for the most sick children will be increased, which will lead to a better outcome for the babies."




SEE ALSO
Special baby units 'understaffed'
23 Oct 08 |  South East Wales

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