A PUBLIC meeting is to be held to discuss the future of a maternity unit threatened with closure.
NHS Greater Glasgow And Clyde (NHSGGC) wants to shut the midwife-run labour suite at Inverclyde Royal Hospital, Greenock.
The number of births in the hospital has dropped 45% over the past three years.
In 2011, 66 children were born there, of a total of 793 in the Inverclyde area, with most mothers delivering in the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, or in Glasgow hospitals.
The board says evidence shows that most women prefer delivery in a consultant-led service.
Inverclyde Royal's maternity service was downgraded in 2003 when all deliveries became midwife-led.
More than 4000 people signed a petition calling for the unit to be retained.
The board is extending the consultation because of "local concerns" and will also hold a public meeting at a date to be announced.
Under the plans the unit will continue to offer ante-natal and post-natal care.
A NHSGGC spokesman said: "The board agreed to defer the closure of the delivery service for a further three years to undertake activity to aim to increase the number of deliveries.
"That effort has not been successful. Deliveries have declined a further 45% over the last three years.
"Although there has already been formal public consultation, it is proposed we update and reissue the material for a further consultation before the board makes a decision."
Another spokeswoman said: "The board has agreed a further period of formal public consultation on the proposed transfer of the birthing service at the community maternity unit – which currently delivers around 70 babies annually – to a consultant-led service at Paisley or Glasgow.
"The consultation process, which will begin this autumn, is being undertaken because the number of women giving birth at the Inverclyde unit is down by 45%, with more mothers delivering in consultant-led maternity services in Glasgow and Paisley.
"If there are changes to the delivery services, this will not affect other services in the unit, which enables women to access most maternity care in their area."
"The board will make a final decision following the outcome of the consultation."