Monday, July 21, 2008


Red News Readers,

What strikes me as an old public system nurse and nurse trade unionist about this story is it is more of the same. It seems the bureaucrats in Western Sydney Area Health Service have made a decision with an appalling lack of consultation with the staff and patients affected, even though consultation with those affected is government policy and required in health system awards and agreements. But I suspect this is an Area decision, and I would be surprised if the minister knew about it until today.

Due to the lack of available medical and midwifery staff and the apparent need to meet Area budgetary targets, this service may need to be restructured but there are ways of achieving restructure without having a whole community in uproar and pregnant mothers feeling very anxious. I heard on the radio that one expectant mother was told by the staff, "ring up on the day when you are in labor and we will see if we can fit you in." How ridiculous! Expectant mothers need more certainty than that!! I hope the Minister make the bureaucrats come down out of their bunkers and consult with those affected.

Jenny Haines

Women told to leave town for births

Natasha Wallace Health Reporter, smh

July 21, 2008

EXPECTANT women in the Blue Mountains have been told that as of today they can no longer give birth at their local hospital because of staff shortages, and will have to travel to Nepean or Lithgow hospitals.

This is despite the fact Nepean Hospital is struggling with midwifery shortages. A Sydney West Area Health Service spokeswoman has also confirmed Lithgow, with only low-risk maternity services, has just two postnatal beds.

The Health Department did not start notifying women until the beginning of this month.

The recent Garling inquiry into public hospitals heard Blue Mountains Hospital in Katoomba - which can only take low-risk deliveries and has had no full-time obstetric service since August, 2004 - regularly sent women to Nepean Hospital or as far as Westmead Hospital to give birth.

A Blue Mountains Hospital midwife, who did not want to be named, said that in the past few years not one woman had been sent to Lithgow to give birth.

"We always send them to Nepean or Westmead. I know women [who need to be rebooked] will not go to Lithgow because there's no [comprehensive] maternity unit there and there's only a couple of beds," she said.

The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said the decision would put increased pressure on an already strained local ambulance and patient transport service.

She said the Health Minister, Reba Meagher, and the member for Blue Mountains, Phil Koperberg, "must explain to Blue Mountains residents why staff shortages have been allowed to get so out of control … and when the birthing unit will be reopened," Mrs Skinner said.

Birthing at Blue Mountains Hospital was shut in June 2002 due to staff shortages and resumed in April 2003.

A spokeswoman for Ms Meagher said there was a worldwide shortage of obstetricians and midwives. She said the Government had recently recruited obstetricians from Britain and Canada, and was also spending $46.4 million over the next four years on maternity services.

A local childbirth educator, Natalie Dash, said women were "shocked" by the decision and were planning a rally at the hospital today at 11am.

"They're incredibly disappointed … if they wanted to birth in another hospital they would have booked in nine months ago," Ms Dash said.

The hospital's general manager, Andrea Williams, said despite extensive recruitment efforts, there were still maternity service vacancies. "We've taken the decision to suspend birthing services to ensure the safety of mothers and babies," she said.