AUSTRALIA is delivering record numbers of babies, despite losing a sixth of its public hospital maternity wards over the past decade.
Despite rising fertility rates and population growth, the number of obstetric and maternity services offered by state-run acute-care hospitals has plummeted from 298 in 2000-01 to 248 in 2007-08.
Neonatal intensive care and specialist pediatric services have also become scarcer in the public sector at a time when most other specialist units grew in number.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows the bush suffered the steepest decline in maternity services, with medical workforce shortages and low volumes of births speeding closures.
... Justine Caines, a member of the Maternity Coalition executive, said state health services had been too quick to use obstetrician shortages as an excuse to abandon local maternity units, arguing midwives could provide substitute services if current rules were relaxed.
... "Why has this been allowed to happen when the midwifery workforce has been there forever, willing and able and yet prevented from practice by funding arrangements?" she said.
... Australia is expected to register almost 300,000 births in 2008, surpassing the previous record of 287,000 in 2007.
... Queensland cut the deepest into its maternity services this decade, slashing 22 obstetric units and 16 specialist pediatric services ...
Victoria lost 11 obstetrics and two neonatal intensive care units, while NSW closed down nine maternity units.
... The federal government's $120 million budget package for maternity services, which boosted the role of midwives, would allow more creative ways of returning services closer to women's homes, she said.
Thankfully, overcrowding and lack of care providers is not a problem when you plan a home birth. You will always have a room and a bed, even if you book in late .... you even have your own bathroom, kitchen and living room. I hear the food is better there too!