Midwife shortage hits Pontefract Hospital's Friarwood Birth Centre
Pontefract Hospital's maternity unit has been forced to move to an on demand service temporarily because of a staff shortage.
The Friarwood Birth Centre remains open to any women who've chosen to give birth at Pontefract and go into labour, but is otherwise closed.
The situation is expected to remain the same for several weeks until the Mid Yorkshire Hospital NHS Trust can recruit a new cohort of midwives.
The trust is too short-staffed to keep the birth centre open full-time and can only hire midwives en masse in the autumn, when those training to be in profession have completed their qualifications.
David Melia, the trust's director of nursing, said: "We can confirm that, due to ongoing staffing challenges, the trust is currently providing an ‘on demand’ service at the Friarwood Birth Centre at Pontefract on an out-of-hours basis.
"This means that, during these periods, women who have chosen Pontefract as their place of birth are still able to have their baby there, supported by one of our community midwives.
"This is in order to maintain choice for women and to ensure the safety of our maternity services.
"Meanwhile, we are working hard to address midwifery shortages; in fact, we are looking forward to welcoming 23 new midwives to the trust in the autumn once their period of qualification and induction is complete."
Although hospital bosses recently outlined long-term plans to have Friarwood open as an on-demand service only, a decision on that move is yet to be reached.
Therefore Friarwood is expected to open full-time again once the staff shortage has been addressed.
The unit was closed for around six weeks last summer because of similar capacity issues.
Trade unions have consistently warned of a shortage of midwives across the country in recent years, with 3,000 having left the profession in 2017.
Local Democracy Reporting Service