A maternity consultant who fought relentlessly for the Horton Maternity Hospital has died, aged 92.
Malcolm Gate, always referred to as Mr Gate, was consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Horton from the maternity unit’s inception in 1960 until his retirement in 1988.
Mr Gate moved to Banbury in 1960. His daughter Ann said: “The maternity hospital had just been opened and it was in a real sense ‘his’ hospital until he was joined in 1973 by fellow consultant, long-term friend and colleague Paul Whiteley.
“He fought tirelessly for the Horton on frequent occasions over the years.”
In his tribute at the funeral at St Mary’s Church, Bloxham, Mr Whiteley remembered how Mr Gate was pursued by a national TV news team after his refusal to allow the authorities to replace blankets with duvets on Norris (gynaecology) Ward had made headline news in the Banbury Guardian.
To his annoyance he was filmed leaving the hospital in his red Ferrari.
He was a member and past president of Tadmarton Heath Golf Club and spent his holidays rock climbing in his native Lake District and Snowdonia. He was a member of the Alpine Club, making frequent trips to Chamonix and Zermatt. On one memorable occasion he was stranded on the Matterhorn and helicoptered off with his fellow climbers the following morning.
Mr Gate was aware of and supported the current campaign to save the Maternity Unit at the Horton and his daughter said he would have expressed strong views on the latest threats to the hospital to which he dedicated 28 years of his life.
“As Paul Whiteley said at his funeral: the ‘womenfolk of Banburyshire’ (as he described his patients with pride), owe much to the devoted care and skill he provided.”
In 1986 Oxfordshire Health Authority claimed the unit could be closed without much disadvantage.
Mr Gate said: “I can only think those who have made this suggestion have no conception of what would happen. Before we set up this department in 1960 there had been a number of disastrous cases.The perinatal mortality was high and there were avoidable maternal deaths. I have not the least doubt that similar things would happen again if women had to go to Oxford.
“It would need only one maternal death to provoke a huge public outcry and the potential for litigation against the health authority if there were babies with avoidable brain damage is immense.
“It would be very easy to show that such injury was a direct result of the decision to close the maternity unit here.
“Every year we have women with abruption placentae or prolapse of the umbilical cord. Both conditions require treatment very urgently.
“One lady, unwisely, because of a previous stillbirth, booked for the (then new) JR. She had a very severe accidental haemorrhage at about 35 weeks and again unwisely was put in an ambulance by a GP for transfer to Oxford.
When they reached Deddington the ambulancemen thought she was dying and raced her back and brought her to us. She had a massive transfusion and was lucky to survive.
Mr Gate said he and his colleagues were ‘totally appalled’ at the centralisation plans they had heard.