Mums push for more at Theodore Hospital
THE State Government has confirmed that the report from its Rural Maternity Taskforce looking into services at regional hospitals would be released midway through this year, however, Theodore locals are concerned it won't be enough and they will be no closer to a return to Level 2 services in the region.
Local lobby group Friends of Theodore Maternity Services is also worried the "absolutely essential” services of midwives will be underrated and overlooked.
The Theodore Hospital's maternity services were downgraded from Level 2 to Level 1 - which meant an end to planned low-risk birthing in the town - after the floods in 2011 damaged the building, however despite the protests of residents to return services to Level 2, they have remained at Level 1.
The State Government's Rural Maternity Taskforce was established in August last year, and has visited four sites - Theodore, Roma, Mt Isa, and Ingham - to investigate how to minimise risk for mothers and babies in rural and remote communities, and Health Minister Steven Miles said its results would be released in the next few months.
Recently, Mr Miles came under scrutiny after it was revealed Theodore Hospital's management had also been instructed to abandon a 24/7 on-call roster for midwives.
He confirmed this week he had instructed the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service to retain their on-call midwife roster, after confusion over whether this would be the case.
Mr Miles said the Taskforce would look at planning, developing and delivering rural and remote maternity services in Queensland, rather than focus on planning changes locally.
"Theodore Hospital is, and remains fully equipped to cater for imminent birthing, and that continues to be the case. The hospital provides comprehensive antenatal and post-natal care.
"There has been no change to birthing services at Theodore since 2011.”
He said the birthing room would be repurposed to continue to provide imminent birthing facilities, and to enable it to be used for emergency services when needed.
Kristy Hateley, who lives on a property in Theodore, birthed all four of her children in the Theodore Hospital and is a member of Friends of Theodore Maternity Services - she is concerned the yet-to-be-released report is a box ticking exercise.
"But I really hope that it's not. I'm worried they're going to give the safety facts and figures but none of the emotional impacts. Level 2 includes low risk planned birthing, but Level 1 doesn't.”
She said she would like to see the hospital returned to a Level 2 for its maternity services because she believes low-risk mothers need to be able to birth at their local hospital with a known midwife.
She said mothers who were required to birth away from their home town faced extra stress and costs involved with accommodation and being away from their support network.
"For me, my partner works in a mine, I have no family here, and it would mean going away from 36 weeks pregnant.
"You also don't have continuity of care. It's a big stress on the families and the pregnant mother - financial and emotional.
"Some of these women are running farms, and they can't just walk away from their obligations. Does it mean their children are missing school?”
She said ahead of the Taskforce report release she was worried it would focus on the facts and figures in relation to a safe birth but not the emotional impacts of being away from home while preparing to birth.
Ms Hateley said many rural or remote areas had lost their Level 2 service because they didn't have the staff or facilities required.
"But we have the facilities and the staff so I can't see any reason why it should change.”
Another member of Friends of Theodore Maternity Services who preferred not to be named said the region had six midwives and she had been advocating since 2011 for a return to Level 2 services in Theodore.
She said midwives were "essential” to a woman's birthing journey.
"Our community want it to be Level 2, and that's what it was before the floods. We were working toward Level 2 after the floods and now they've taken that away.
"They continue to say that nothing has changed. But Theodore has moved from a level 2 to a level 1. A lot has changed.”
The Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union assistant secretary Sandra Eales said "all the evidence” showed that women experienced the best outcomes when working with a midwife.
"Our position is pretty clear and strong around the need for every woman to have a known midwife.
"There's a mountain of evidence around the protective impact of that and the transition to early parenthood.”
Paul Bell, CQ Hospital and Health Board Chair said the board "wholeheartedly” supported the continued provision of emergency birthing services at the hospital.
Acting Executive Director Gladstone-Banana, Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service, Andrew Jarvis, said the hospital remained fully equipped to cater for imminent birthing, "and that continues to be the case, as it is for our network of small rural hospitals”.
He said the hospital also provided comprehensive antenatal and post-natal care.
"There is a plan to enhance this through the establishment of a midwifery group practice continuity program.”