Maternity ward ‘overcrowded’ and staff ‘overstretched’ following maternity service merger

A first time mother has spoken out about the “cramped and overcrowded” conditions on the maternity ward at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr.

Alex Davies-Jones gave birth to her son, Sullivan, almost 3 weeks ago. She says the number of patients that staff had to treat was “overwhelming”.

She says she also experienced nurses and doctors openly crying about the amount of patients they had to treat in such “cramped” conditions.

The criticism comes following the merger of Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board specialist maternity services.

The change which came into force on the 9th March means that any patient likely to need specialist medical care when in labour or a baby needing specialist neonatal care will now be admitted to Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil.

In response, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said they are “doing everything we possibly can to improve our maternity services and deliver quality care to women and their families”.

According to Alex, a Rhondda Cynon Taff Councillor, the maternity unit in Merthyr is just not coping with this increased demand and intimate examinations and procedures are being carried out in “unsuitable” conditions.

From the moment we arrived for our induction and we were shown our bed and we could see how many beds were in such a small room alarm bells began ringing.

There was just no room. There was no room for my husband to sit by the side of us, if you wanted visitors there was nowhere for them to be.

My curtain opened and there was literally another bed at the bottom of my bed, it was that close.

– ALEX DAVIES-JONES

Despite Sullivan needing to stay in the neonatal unit for an extra 5 nights Alex was discharged less than 48 hours after having a Caesarean section with a nurse on duty admitting it was because of a shortage of beds.

Alex, her husband and baby Sullivan leaving hospital

The midwife said to me, in reality I would want you to stay not just because your baby is in neonatal, but because you’ve only really had one night after an emergency c-section.

We could do with giving you some more care and attention, showing you basic things like how to breastfeed, getting that established but she just said, ‘I’m so sorry, I need your bed, I need to discharge you because I’ve got other mothers who desperately need your bed.

Even though your not ready to go home this is the situation we’ve got.

I just broke down in tears.

– ALEX DAVIES-JONES

Alex describes the care she received from the staff on the ward as “exceptional” but says experiencing such conditions and being discharged early did “take it’s toll” on her mental health.

Mum and baby

Bethany Frowen also experienced similar conditions when admitted to the maternity ward at Prince Charles Hospital.

Again, despite the best efforts and care she received from the midwives Bethany describes the ward as “chaotic”.

When we arrived there, we were taken into a side room as they didn’t have any beds available. They’d had some teething problems so there was storage in the room, desks and chairs and one bed and just equipment that had been left around.

Four hours later we still hadn’t been seen and I was labouring at this point and so I went to see what was going on, whether anyone was going to check on us and they didn’t actually know we were there. They’d had a change over of staff and they hadn’t passed on the message that we were in there.

The staff were so lovely and so apologetic but you could just see they were run off their feet.

– BETHANY FROWEN

Bethany Frowen and family

Being her third child Bethany says there was a notable difference in how she felt upon being discharged.

On her first two children, which she had at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant, she said that by the time she left both her and the baby had received all the relevant and necessary checks but there felt a distinct ‘lack of control’ this time, with her newborn, Efa being discharged without having a hearing test and knowing to have jaundice which subsequently became dangerously high and she was readmitted just over 24 hours later.

Bethany also feels that she was discharged too early and the reason she was discharged was became of the demand for beds.

She describes it as a very “stressful” experience.

Considering this has been on the cards for a while I was shocked that the midwives I knew from having my babies at the Royal Glamorgan had never been up to Merthyr before, had never worked on the ward before, didn’t know where things were on the ward.

They hadn’t used the notes system before, I was shocked that it’s the same health board and these staff hadn’t had an integration into working into a different hospital.

It was quite traumatic to watch the midwives having to keep to go through that and at the same time keep a professional face whilst doing a very important job and looking after people who at that time feel quite vulnerable.

– BETHANY FROWEN

In response to these claims Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said they are “doing everything we possibly can to improve our maternity services and deliver quality care to women and their families”.

We take our responsibilities for providing safe services extremely seriously and we are committed to doing everything we possibly can to improve our maternity services and deliver quality care to women and their families.

The recent changes to our maternity services, which have seen consultant-led specialist care moved from the Royal Glamorgan Hospital to Prince Charles Hospital and the development of a 24/7 Freestanding Midwifery-led Unit for low-risk births at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, were decisions made as part of the public consultation on the South Wales Programme back in 2014.

That consultation identified that the changes were necessary to improve staffing levels and ensure the sustainability of services. Since then, we have been working really hard to implement this new model. While early days, we believe that the changes provide us with an opportunity to deliver better care for families in the long-term.

We don’t underestimate how difficult these changes have been for patients and our staff alike and would encourage anyone to get in touch with us so we can answer questions or do what we can to help address any concerns.

– CWM TAF MORGANNWG UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD

Alex Davies-Jones, a local Rhondda Cynon Taf councillor, says her own experience shows that ‘fears’ over the merger of these specialist services have been “confirmed” and something “desperately needs to be done and the situation needs to be reviewed”.

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