At a packed St Mary’s Church last night (25/08), Banbury told Oxford University Hospital bosses with passion that they were not going to tolerate the downgrading of maternity services.
Next week the Oxford University Hospital Trust decide whether to downgrade the maternity unit at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury. Banbury MP Victoria Prentis and the Banbury Town Council hurriedly organised a questions and answers evening to allow the people of Banbury to ask questions and receive answers from the Trust.
Hospital bosses including the chief Dr Bruno Holthof were constantly heckled over their disputed claims regarding the distance to the John Radcliff Hospital, available ambulances and the risk to delivering mums and babies.
Independent chair, Vicar of St Mary’s, Rev Philip Cochrane, worked hard to keep order but the listening audience were in no mood to stay quiet. Every time the panel mentioned anything to do with the safety of mothers and babies the audience held up banners saying ‘Dead in an Ambulance’ and ‘JR Too Far’.
The evening got underway when Keith Strangwood from ‘Keep the Horton General’ (KTHG) campaign interrupted Dr Bruno Holthof’s opening speech to present him with thousands of petition signatures collected over the last few weeks from local people who are passionate that the maternity unit should not be downgraded to midwife led.
After the opening speeches by the Trust, members of KTHG, midwives and people from Banbury including many parents and expectant mothers took to the microphone to ask questions and challenge the answers. Rev Philip Cochrane also asked many questions on behalf of people who had emailed questions to Victoria Prentis MP prior to the meeting. The audience erupted when Stephen Kennedy said they could not recruit doctors.
It was during this period that Andrew McHugh, retired Horsefair GP Surgery Practice Manager, walked off stage and left the meeting in protest of the Trust’s insistence that sufficient efforts had been made to recruit the specialist doctors needed to keep the maternity unit fully open. St Mary’s Church was full of cheering and clapping in agreement as he walked out of the building.
The Q&A event was ended with the loudest applause of the evening when a brave Horton Midwife took to the stage to read out a statement on behalf of them all, she said:
“I am currently a midwife at the unit and we all would like to thank KTHG for affording us these few moments to speak
“Until now our presence and our voices have remained quiet… But tonight I now call upon my sisters here in this hall to stand up with me. Stand tall stand proud and stand united in our one voice, our one message….
“We are all at our very core only focused on one thing…. the safe provision of quality care to the women and families in our charge
“We plead now personally to you Dr Bruno Holthof to reject your Trust’s Contingency Plans, to insist your obstetric Consultants across both hospitals pull together temporarily with agency doctors until the proposed Ugandan Doctors are in post.
“We demand we are no longer silenced, that our contribution and place within OUHFT is acknowledged and respected and that despite the lack of trust in your Trust, Dr Holthof, you prove to us, your staff, that you are patient focused, women centred and recognise fully the important crucial role the whole of the Horton General Hospital plays in this growing community ….”
BBC news were filming the event and interviewing expectant mums and other protesters including BanburyTown.com’s own Brenda Shepley.