ARROWE Park Hospital's neo-natal unit could be put under pressure if plans to transfer premature babies from North Wales are given the go-ahead.

The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is looking to move any baby who is born more than 16 weeks early and is in need of intensive care to the Wirral-based hospital.

At the moment, they are treated at Wrexham Maeloe and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan but Arrowe Park could be forced to treat the most at-risk youngsters.

The move has been vehemently opposed by parents in North Wales, with thousands signing petitions, by hospital staff as well as the BMA (British Medical Association) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in October.

It comes in the wake of a leaked letter from Arrowe Park’s head of midwifery which revealed the borough's maternity unit was in crisis.

The four-page letter, which was given to the Globe last November, was sent to all midwives, medical and nursing staff by Linda Birch, lead nurse at Arrowe Park Hospital’s women and children's division, and raised deep concerns of “worrying trends” in care given to maternity patients.

And according to the Welsh Daily Post, the BMA have warned that the move would mean "double the board's estimate of 36 babies" per year.

There are also fears that it would lead to job losses for neonatal staff in North Wales while the RCN believe the changes would pose a threat to all neonatal care in the region.

Denbigh couple Lucy and Sion Owens, whose baby Betrys was treated in Glan Clwyd’s unit after being born 15 weeks premature, told the Welsh Daily Post: "Words cannot describe what we went through and what we watched our little girl battle against.

"We lived hour by hour.

"It is unbearable to think what it would have been like had she been transferred to Arrowe Park on the Wirral.

"I would have not been able to see my baby as I was so ill, my husband Sion would have been torn between Betrys and myself.

"That would have put Sion in an impossible situation.

"We were lucky, our baby survived but many don't.

"If the unit transfers to the Wirral many parents will lose the precious few days they get to spend with their child."

A Wirral University Teaching Hospital spokesman said: “Wirral Women & Children’s Hospital is one of a small number of hospitals in the country that is designated as a Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  As such it provides newborn babies and their mothers with some of the best facilities and the highest concentration of dedicated specialist clinical care available in the region. 

"There is clear evidence that the most premature babies have a better outcome if they are looked after in a designated Level 3 Unit.

"The transferring of very poorly babies to other hospitals for specialist care is already well established, for example for paediatric surgery or paediatric intensive care. 

"Our hospital is pleased to be able to provide sick and vulnerable babies with the highest standard of care available.”