WITHOUT Withybush Hospital special care baby unit (SCBU) a baby born 12 weeks prematurely last week would not have survived, his family were told after he was delivered within an hour.
Tiny Freddie Bamford Lewis was born weighing just 2lbs 14oz on Friday, July 25 – just 50 minutes or so after his father Myles, 22, had called an ambulance for partner Jasmine McGinley, 19, and they had been rushed to Withybush’s special care baby unit from Fishguard.
But if Freddie had arrived next week there would be no unit to save his life and any future families in a similar situation will have to hope to make to Carmarthen in time to receive treatment.
Luckily for Freddie, who could be the last baby to be born at SCBU in Pembrokeshire, staff were on hand and acted quickly to help him breathe and stabilise him before being transferred to Singleton’s special care unit in Swansea.
But Myles and Jasmine were told had the unit not been there little Freddie would not have survived.
“On Friday morning Jasmine woke up just after 4am with really bad stomach pains – she was having contractions – I didn’t really believe her at first, I thought the baby can’t be coming that early.
“It was 15 minutes before the ambulance came and about 15 minutes back. Within 20 minutes of being at the hospital my son was born. We would have been nowhere near Carmarthen, we’d probably have been at about Canaston Bridge, we never would have made it,” said Myles.
Thankfully Freddie is fighting hard and is showing himself to be made of strong stuff although is likely to be kept at Singleton for at least a month. However, once needing a lower level of care he will be transferred to Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen not closer to home at Withybush.
Myles has contacted Health Minister Mark Drakeford to highlight how dangerous he thinks health services changes will be for mothers and babies in Pembrokeshire.
Myles said the lifesaving care provided by Withybush was “absolutely fantastic”.
He said: “The ambulance had rung ahead and everyone was there already. Some of the staff were crying because if they hadn’t been there Freddie wouldn’t make it. They know the full extent of what’s happening, they’re the people that should have been consulted and spoken too first. They said they were just told this is what’s happening.
“The unit should be kept, it’s just mad. Without being in hospital from the get go they wouldn’t have made it. Unless he [Mark Drakeford] is going to start packing ambulances with machines comparable to the ones in intensive care unit then Pembrokeshire babies will die on the way to Glangwili. That first couple of hours is crucial.
“It doesn’t make sense to centralise anything, we need the same amount of care everywhere.
“I never really took much notice because you never really think it’s going to happen to you but when it does you think ‘what is this guy doing?’ It’s a very bad idea.
“I hate to think what will happen next month, it’s not the hospital’s fault or the paramedics, but when the unit closes down and babies start dying what will the parents do? It will be an unnecessary death and it will be on his head. At the end of the day he’s fully responsible, he’s the ones who has approved the plans.
“There will be a lot of babies that need the care – they all deserve the same head start in life as everyone else. It turns my stomach to think that a week on Monday there will be no SCBU at Withybush.
“My son was lucky to be one of the last to need the SCBU, other babies will not be so lucky.”
Hywel Dda University Health Board has said that changes to care for women, children and babies is in order to provide safe and sustainable services.
A dedicated ambulance will be based at Withybush Hospital as part of the transport ‘safety net’ made a requirement by the Welsh Government when plans were approved by Mr Drakeford.
A spokesman added: “We would like to reassure families across our area that both our midwives and paramedics from the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust are trained and able to deal with emergencies, such as births on transfer. This includes the resuscitation of premature babies. Hywel Dda is a rural area and we already have highly trained staff who are experienced in safely dealing with and caring for women and babies in similar circumstances.”