Rockhampton hospital midwifery cuts leave soon-to-be mothers worried

Queensland women are concerned about the cuts to midwifery services at Rockhampton Base Hospital, and say regional Australians deserve higher levels of care.

Access to quality health services and medical specialists have been one of the major issues for many regional and rural electorates.

In Rockhampton, the city hospital’s maternity ward has been under especially close scrutiny after four serious incidents in the last year, including the death of a baby.

An independent review handed down its findings a fortnight ago and made 35 recommendations, blaming inadequate staffing, training and poor workplace culture.

A midwifery group at Rockhampton Base Hospital, which helped to give mothers one-on-one care, was suspended in March after staffing issues were identified as a problem at the hospital, and the specialist staff were diverted into general maternity services.

Teagann Sinnott, co-ordinator of Come Out and Play playgroup in a cafe in central Rockhampton and soon-to-be mother, said the recent changes to maternity services in Rockhampton had her worried.

“We did the midwifery group practice which was fantastic, and they don’t run that program anymore,” she said.

Ms Sinnott said she understood that there had been a serious understaffing issue, but said regional Australians deserved higher levels of care.

“Once you get into the hospital ward after having a child, you just get whoever’s on shift,” she said.

“And so you’re either retelling your story four or five times, or you’re just another number and they don’t care about your story.”

More needs to be done to attract quality staff: nurses union

Australian Medical Association’s Queensland branch president Dr Chris Zappala said the issues at Rockhampton Base Hospital had to be addressed.

“There was a problem with communication and culture, a problem with the midwifery standards of training particularly around foetal monitoring and so on,” he said.

“There was a problem around a side lining or marginalisation of obstetricians.

“And as always I think in regional and remote areas, there’s always a problem with getting sufficient people.”

Grant Burton, from the Queensland Nurses Union in Rockhampton, said attracting quality medical staff to the region had become even harder after the recent incidents and investigation at the hospital maternity ward.

“We’ve had some challenges in retaining staff and attracting staff due to what’s actually occurred over the last six months,” he said.

“And certainly with the downturn in other infrastructure, in mining and other areas, it certainly has been a challenge.”

Mr Burton said the next federal government needed to make rural and regional postings more attractive.

“Incentives to attract staff to the area, to attract specialist staff,” he said.

“Certainly we’d expect them to stay for 10 years, but to have them commit to anywhere between two to five years.”

One mum-to-be said while she wanted to have faith in the health system and hope that it would not let anyone down, “then you hear all these case of things going wrong, and I guess it does reduce your confidence a little bit”.