Flood-hit roads strengthens case to save Cumbria's hospital services


Watching roads across Cumbria being engulfed by floodwater has strengthened the case to keep urgent hospital services in Whitehaven, campaigners say.

A section of the A595 between Cockermouth and Carlisle was among the roads closed on Wednesday as the storms battered the county.

Firefighters were called out to several incidents where people were trapped in cars on flooded roads.

West Cumbrians have since taken to social media to post photos and videos, saying it demonstrates problems many would face if more patients had to travel to Carlisle in ambulances.

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The local community is fighting to keep services, including consultant-led maternity, at the West Cumberland Hospital.

They fear lives will be put at risk if mums and babies have to travel along the notorious A595 - which is often closed by accidents and bad weather - to Carlisle's Cumberland infirmary in an emergency.

Now they say the recent bad weather strengthens their case - stressing that it is not even winter and roads are being flooded.

Stephen Banton posted a photo he took on Wednesday on the We Need West Cumberland Hospital Facebook page.

He said: "I'm a wagon driver in and around Cumbria and people don't understand the difficulty of travelling even short distances.

"The road from Whitehaven to Carlisle is bad enough without this happening."

Annette Robson, from the We Need West Cumberland Hospital, said her own home, at Santon Bridge near Wasdale, was cut off from the road after the nearby river burst its banks.

She said: "The roads all over Cumbria were like rivers and in some parts impassable.

"People in pain, including the elderly and frail and pregnant mothers, need services at West Cumberland Hospital and not a journey to Carlisle in horrendous weather conditions."

Jodie Grainger, 24, from Workington, gave birth to son Freddie on Saturday, just 34 weeks into her pregnancy.

It followed her waters breaking at 29 weeks, resulting in her being rushed by ambulance to Middlesbrough - where there is a specialist neonatal unit - in case she went into labour.

Luckily she was able to hold on until 34 weeks, giving birth at the West Cumberland Hospital, where he remains in the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) until he is strong enough to go home.

Jodie said she dreads to think what would have happened if there were no consultants in Whitehaven and she was having to travel through the storm to see him at the SCBU unit in Carlisle.

"I couldn't have got to him in that weather. I'd have been cut off. It would have been horrendous. I'm expressing milk for him so he needs me there every few hours," she said.

She added that, having been transferred in an ambulance during her pregnancy, she does not any more women than necessary to have to go through that experience, especially not on the A595.

"It was terrifying. I just thought 'I can't give birth to a baby that premature in the back of an ambulance'. I was crying my eyes out. And that road is even worse than the ones I was on," she said.

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