MORE than a 1,000 people from across the county came to send a message to the Health Minister today - 'Save Withybush hospital SCBU'.

Young and old braved what began as a wet and windy morning to show their anger at Hywel Dda University Health Board plans, backed this week by health minister Mark Drakeford, to close the special care baby unit.

Pembrokeshire's mothers would be served by a midwife led unit with only the lowest risk births happening in the county but there are serious fears about what will happen to women who develop complications suddenly and have no access to consultant obstetricians.

Many highlighted the fact that the main road out of Pembrokeshire was closed for the majority of the day yesterday following fatal traffic accident.

Haverfordwest resident Barry Barnard added: "It's very important for the future for the children of the county and the future of everybody. We don't have enough ambulances to cover the area and the road was blocked yesterday - they talk about the golden hour but there's no way you're going to get to Carmarthen in that time with the limited ambulances we have and the road network."

The protesters marched from the county archives building to Withybush Hospital where the impressive crowd gathered with placards and banners clearly outlining the fears of residents that the lives of women and babies would be at risk if a level 2 neonatal unit was developed at Carmarthen as a replacement for the current unit.

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb said: "There is an enormous sense of anger amongst the crowd, people from all walks of life, all across the county, voicing their frustration and their fears of what the future will look like without the essential service of SCBU on our doorstep."

Campaigners from SWAT are now planning a demonstration at the Senedd in Cardiff on March 5 and are calling for as many people as possible to join them.

Chairman Chris Overton said: "We really need a big turnout on the 5th of March and want people to make that big effort."

Buses are being organised for the trip and SWAT is looking for sponsorship to help support it.

South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart also attended as well as AM Paul Davies who called the minister's announcement a 'bitter blow for Pembrokeshire'.

"It's remarkable so many people have turned up again and will keeping turning up. If I was Mark Drakeford and the Welsh Government, you've got to ask yourself the question, are you working in the best interest of the community? It's quite clear from the strength of feeling that they are not,@ said Mr Hart.

Mum of five Katie Jones, from Tenby, said she had felt it was important to attend as without SCBU she would be too scared to have another baby.

"I breezed through pregnancy and have been in the position where something went wrong and they saved my life but they've taken that option away from me. I wouldn't want to risk it again because I would leave five children."

For more see this week's Western Telegraph

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