AM Antoinette Sandbach tears on fight to save new born

A Welsh assembly member broke down as she described how she fought in vain to save her baby's life.

Conservative AM Antoinette Sandbach was speaking during a debate in the assembly chamber on maternity services.

Meanwhile, a professional body said Wales needed more midwives to keep up with a baby boom.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said an extra 10% - 136 more midwives - was needed to cope with rising demand.

North Wales AM Ms Sandbach told how she lost her five-day-old son Sam in 2009.

She said she did not want others to go through the same ordeal.

"I had to wait for over 30 minutes and do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and heart massage on my baby before an ambulance arrived," said the AM.

"I had to sit in the ambulance while it took 30 minutes to get to hospital. At that stage, that critical hour had passed, and I don't want any other mother in Wales to have to go through what I went through."

Suffer most

Wiping away tears, she said: "I'm sorry, I'm upset, but it is absolutely vital that in any reorganisation, the access to services, particularly for those 11% of people in rural areas who have no access to transport.

"They do not have cars, they rely on ambulances or friends or neighbours to hospital and it is shown that it is the most deprived people who will suffer most."

AMs were debating the Welsh Government's strategy for maternity services, which some members have warned could mean specialist services are centralised away from local hospitals.

The Welsh Government, which has included a broader educational role for midwives in its new strategy, said it was "surprised" by the RCM's claim.

Helen Rogers, RCM director for Wales, said: "The steep birthrate rises of recent years have overtaken us."

The RCM told BBC Wales that live births in Wales had risen by 19% since 2002 to nearly 36,000 in 2010. Midwife numbers had kept up with the birthrate rise for most of the period before falling by 9.6% in the last two years.

Ms Rogers said: "Wales has done really well to maintain midwife numbers, but the steep birthrate rises of recent years have overtaken us.

Future demand

"These figures represent shortages in our maternity services that need attention. Each single number is a midwife that should be there caring for women and their babies, but isn't."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "We are surprised at these comments from the Royal College of Midwives who, only last week, stated that Wales did not have a problem with midwife numbers.

"The number of midwives trained is based on what the NHS determines it will require to meet future demand.

"Since 1999 there has been an 11% increase in the number of midwives in Wales, and midwifery staffing was not identified in the 2011 Workforce Plans as either a recruitment or a retention issue."

The warning comes after Health Minister Lesley Griffiths announced a strategy to improve maternity services by focusing more directly on the needs, health and well-being of mothers and their babies.

It includes a proposal for midwives to carry out a broader educational role, although opposition parties claimed the strategy masked a plan by Labour for centralisation and cuts in local maternity services.

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