Kate Benson Medical Reporter May 15, 2009
SCORES of residents attended a public rally in the Blue Mountains yesterday to force the State Government to keep the hospital's embattled maternity unit open.
The ward has been shut at short notice more than 120 times in the past 18 months because ... a lack of available obstetricians and anaesthetists.
Staff and residents have been told the area health service was working hard to recruit more staff and keep the unit open, following a 2007 promise ... that maternity services would be maintained.
But yesterday women from throughout the Blue Mountains gathered outside the hospital to protest against rumours the maternity and pediatric units would be shut permanently by November.
The hospital serves an area that has 80,000 residents, and draws more than 3 million tourists a year, but when it is shut patients have to travel to Nepean Hospital, 45 minutes away.
"This is our worst nightmare," Katoomba's deputy mayor, Janet Mays, said. "Monies were allocated [in this week's federal budget] to upgrade Nepean, making it quite clear that we are seen as nothing more than feeder suburbs, [and] that is offensive ..."
... All seven midwives have quit in frustration because a plan to allow them to manage low-risk births, approved in November by NSW Health and due to start in July, is still in doubt.
It all seems a bit odd to me. Why not open the unit as a midwifery-led unit? High risk women can be cared for at Nepean. If this was the arrangement, women and their families would know the plan and feel more certainty in what might happen. The way it is currently, women don't know if the unit will be open or closed when they go into labour. Or, open it as a birth centre.