Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Red News Readers,

The public needs to understand that this is the stupidity that nurses and midwives have to put up with on a daily basis. Managers think they are being so clever making moves like this but all it does is frustrate the nursing and midwifery staff and leave patients at risk of an error. Let nurses be nurses and midwives be midwives, for goodness sake and let the public get the best standard of care available.

Jenny Haines

Embattled hospital shuffles midwives

Kate Benson Medical Reporter, smh

December 31, 2008

MIDWIVES at the beleaguered Blue Mountains hospital are being forced to work on general wards because several surgical nurses have been given shifts in the maternity unit while the operating theatres are closed for three weeks.

The bizarre move has angered staff and comes a day after the Herald reported that two women in the late stages of labour were turned away from the maternity unit over Christmas because an obstetrician was not available to help them. One gave birth in an ambulance on the roadside, while the other, seven weeks' premature, was rushed to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, 90 minutes away, but was diverted to Westmead Hospital because the birth was imminent. The baby, born minutes later, is still in intensive care.

In September, the State Government promised to keep the maternity unit open after the community campaigned against its closure. Almost 300 babies have been delivered there this year but midwives and residents say the unit is often closed at short notice due to a lack of staff and can be shut for up to a week at a time, forcing women to Nepean Hospital, 45 minutes away.

Now staff are angry that midwives, many of whom have studied at university for 4½ years, are being sent to other wards while staff not trained in labour are taking their roles.

"This is totally inappropriate," the assistant secretary of the NSW Nurses Association, Judith Kiejda, said yesterday. "It's not safe for patients and all they are doing is making their staff dissatisfied and they will leave."

The Australian College of Midwives insists that "delegation of midwifery care to non-midwives is not acceptable".

"It is the right of all women to receive continuous pregnancy, labour, birth and postnatal care from a midwife. Compromising women's midwifery care … with non-midwifery personnel is not an appropriate strategy for addressing shortages of midwives," it says.

But the hospital denies any patients had been put in danger. The director of clinical operations for Sydney West Area Health Service, Kevin Hedge, said the unit usually had two midwives rostered for each shift, but a decision had been made to send the second midwife to work in other wards if there were no women in labour.

"Some theatre nurses have been deployed to maternity to support the midwife but it is only to fill gaps in the roster," he said. "Such arrangements are always temporary and are not continued where the midwife is required in the maternity unit."

The Opposition's health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said the roster was short-changing women admitted for antenatal and postnatal care who still deserved midwifery care.

"There are many women in there who give birth at Nepean and are immediately shipped back to Blue Mountains for postnatal care," she said.

"Why on Earth would you not make the best use of the expertise available? No wonder nurses and midwives are leaving the system. This is an affront to them."

Melissa Maimann, a midwife who runs birthing classes, said nurses were leaving themselves open to deregistration if anything went wrong during labour or birth as only obstetricians and registered midwives were legally covered to deliver babies.

"Not all midwives are nurses," she said, "… so why should they be put on general wards?"