While mothers can still give birth in the department, managers have asked those who need more than 12 hours of postnatal care to go to Gloucester.
Rally organizer Claire Rudge said: “Postnatal care has now been closed for over 50 days therefore the Stroud unit is only open for labour, and the adverse impact this is having on women and babies across the community , are enormous.”
The strikes coincided with a national day of action (November 20) by midwives complaining about pay and working conditions.
Midwife Eleanor Smith said: “Many midwives deal with trauma on a daily basis and there is no appropriate place to process it.
“Often a lot of mistakes are made and instead of looking at systems we look at individual midwives and the mistakes they’ve made that end up causing midwives to leave because they just can’t anymore.”
Siobhan Baillie, Stroud’s Conservative MP, was verbally abused during her speech at the rally. A new mom herself, she said it’s about more than money.
She said: “You will have seen with my voting record that I am not shy about challenging the government when the need arises.
“It’s an emotional issue when it comes to babies and parents. But what we’ve heard from the midwives who spoke before me is that it’s not just about funding, it’s about culture.
“Government is on the hook, the NHS trusts are on the hook, the NHS is on the hook to make changes.”
The chief executive of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “There are no plans to close the Stroud Maternity Unit. I would like to reiterate our long-term commitment to the future of services in Stroud.
“Despite significant progress over the summer in recruiting new midwives with 14 new starters (in October) and a number of focused initiatives by our dedicated midwifery recruitment team, staffing levels remain low due to a combination of COVID-19-related illness, other illness-related absenteeism and an ongoing nationwide shortage of midwives.
“This means we need to place our midwives where they can provide safe, one-on-one care during labor and delivery.
“Our senior maternity team, all with many years of experience caring for women and families, sometimes have to make difficult decisions to redeploy our dedicated midwives to ensure everyone, no matter where they have their baby, continues to conceive receive one-on-one care during labor and delivery.”
Other maternity wards are temporarily closed due to a shortage of midwives or illness. These include the department at Cossham Memorial Hospital in Bristol.
Another protest took place on the city’s College Green, organized by trainee midwife Abbie Sanderson.
She said: “In the last year, since the last protest, we have lost another 600 midwives. To put that in context, a full maternity ward here in Bristol has ten midwives. So essentially we lost 60 maternity suites in the UK.”
A spokesman for the Department for Health and Social Care said: “We appreciate the hard work being done by midwives and are committed to supporting them, including by investing £127million in NHS Maternity Services to strengthen the workforce and ensure the care of to improve newborns.”
“This comes on top of £95million invested in the establishment of 1,200 new midwifery posts and 100 consultant midwives to ensure we have the staff to provide quality and safe care, with £26.5million intended for the improvement of multidisciplinary education.
“We have given over a million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, on top of a 3% pay rise last year, increasing wages by an average of £1,000 despite a public sector pay freeze.”