Mums-to-be in Montrose are worried the town’s maternity unit may close as Tayside health bosses are unable to give a date when the burgh’s infirmary will re-open.
Montrose Infirmary closed almost a month ago, on April 24, due to the failure of the heating and water systems.
As a result, a soot-like substance is being blown through the air filter system, which NHS Tayside says is proving difficult to remove.
Expectant mums in the town are concerned over the long-term future of the maternity unit and a campaign has been launched to save it.
Local politicians have also quizzed NHS Tayside’s chief executive over the future of the infirmary on Bridge Street.
Dr Margaret McGuire, NHS Tayside nurse director, said: “The complexities of the systems which have been damaged means it is currently difficult for us to identify a date for reopening.
“We know that no one would want us to open the hospital before we could be absolutely sure there was no risk to patient and staff safety.”
A Facebook page has been set up called Save Montrose Maternity Unit/Midwife Team by Karen Law, a massage and hypnobirthing practitioner from Padanaram who has supported parents who have given birth in Montrose.
She said: “Many women who are reaching term are now understandably concerned because they are unsure where they will be giving birth. Local women want to birth at Montrose because of its good reputation.
“It is national recognised and award winning unit. We cannot afford to lose the midwifery team in Montrose.”
Montrose Maternity Unit was awarded the Royal College of Midwives ‘Promotion of Normality’ award in 2005 and the British Journal of Midwifery ‘Team of the Year’ award in 2006.
Karen continued: “A purpose built unit was due to be started in 2010 but was shelved just a week before building was due to start. My fear is that NHS Tayside will close the Infirmary for good, the building isn’t getting any younger.”
She added if Montrose Infirmary closes she feels a new venue or build would need to be set up in the burgh as there is a want and a need for a maternity unit in Montrose.
An NHS Tayside spokesperson said: “There are currently issues with a number of systems, including the water, heating and filtration systems and therefore NHS Tayside is currently undertaking a full environmental and system review at Montrose Infirmary as a matter of urgency.
“This includes looking at things like testing the resilience of the boilers, checking the integrity of the chimney structures and identifying any remedial work and water sampling.
“We have taken samples for quality testing as it is critical to ensure there is no risk to patients or staff from the water. These samples will not be back from the laboratory until the week commencing Monday, May 26. This will be important for us in taking decisions moving forwards.
“There is an oily substance which has settled on surfaces throughout the hospital which is proving difficult to remove. Teams are undertaking deep cleaning processes.”
Nigel Don MSP for Angus North and Mearns has written to Lesley McLay, chief executive of NHS Tayside, asking for a speedy explanation for the closure of Montrose Maternity Unit, and to Cabinet Secretary for Health, Alex Neil, for clarification on the status of Montrose Maternity Unit.
He said: “We have now reached the point where the unwillingness of the NHS board to say anything about the future of Montrose as a maternity unit is becoming genuinely worrying; to expectant mothers, to members of staff and to the community more widely.
“I would urge senior management at NHS Tayside to recognise that their continuing lack of comment is neither necessary nor helpful.
Mr Don is holding a drop in session at Links Health Centre on Friday (May 23) from 11.30 a.m. for people to raise their concerns with him about Montrose Infirmary.
Montrose councillor David May has also written to the chief executive of NHS Tayside.
He said: “I have asked the chief executive for reassurance about the long-term future of the hospital as women in labour will have to travel to Arbroath, and other patients in the hospital, and their families, will now have to travel to Brechin.
“This is hard enough if they have their own transport but much more difficult if they have to rely on public transport.”
Ante-natal and post-natal maternity services are being provided at the Links Health Centre by the local midwifery team and mothers-to-be are being advised about giving birth at Arbroath Community Maternity Unit at Arbroath Infirmary.
Since the Infirmary’s closure in April, 11 babies whose mothers would have given birth at Montrose have been born in Arbroath.