Work is incredibly busy at the moment and it’s all thanks to the snow, apparently. Was it because couples were snowed in and bored, or just because it was so cold, whatever the motivation was it has resulted in a major baby boom. The maternity unit has been bursting at the seams so they have been calling community midwives in to help out. This has had the knock on effect of reducing staffing in community because 2 midwives, who should have been working, have been working for 24 hours. Totally understandable that midwives should be called in but those women who were in hospital having their baby then go home and need visits, but community is short-staffed. The result? Over 5 days I have managed to log an extra 10 hours, and that’s on a phased return after my op. I’m not as hard-done by as one of my colleagues though who finished at 8pm on Friday, bet her women thought that she was never going to arrive and her husband wondered where his other half had got to, she should have finished at 4.30pm.
When a baby boom happens all areas of the service are hit hard. The community midwives feel it first, suddenly an inordinate number of first meetings, the booking, need to be done. Next the ultrasonographers find they are scanning more women, appointments become like hen’s teeth and more have to be slotted in, so it has to function more like a conveyor belt. Hospital staff start increasing clinic lengths to try and fit in all those who need to see an obstetrician during their pregnancy, everyone is beginning to realise that September is going to be a bumper month for babies. The beginning of August sees both hospital and midwife antenatal clinics becoming really, really busy as the women are now being seen every two weeks. Bad timing, school holidays mean that it is the height of the leave taking and there are less bank staff able to work, the maternity services are staff poor. There never was any slack in the system and now the strain is showing.
The end of August, labour ward is getting busier. Hospital tours and study days are cancelled, midwives are needed on the coal face. On-call community midwives are being called into the unit, that’s the first move, then they are being rostered to work in on the unit, their colleagues battle to cover their commitments. Meanwhile, in on the unit the staff there are running, literally, from one labour room to another. Women and their new babies are being moved to the ward as soon as they have given birth as labouring women are queueing for the room. The staff on the ward are desperately trying to help the new Mums and care for those who are unable to care for themselves. A quick discharge is encouraged, beds are at a premium, the paperwork increases. Community starts to receive the discharged women and babies, often the stay in hospital has been so short that breastfeeding hasn’t really started, visits are longer as more help and support is required. The women aren’t just giving birth in the hospital, there are more homebirths to be attended, community is struggling.
Hopefully the situation should start to improve over the next couple of weeks, certainly the managers appear to believe this as the next off-duty hasn’t got community midwives allocated to the unit, it’s the Health Visitors who are now entering the squall, I feel for them.
The managers have sent us letters thanking us for our support and hardwork. They are also receiving letters. but these communications are complaints about the lack of care and attention. I hope they are blaming the snow and not their staff.