Page 968 - Week 03 - Thursday, 30 March 2023

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The second space is a newly refurbished 15-bed antenatal and gynaecology ward. This new space will enable the opening of an additional postnatal ward, which will double the postnatal bed capacity at the hospital later this year. As the ward is located adjacent to the Early Pregnancy Service, there will be strong integration between the services, enabling staff to work across both and flex up and down each service as needed. I was very pleased to be there, with consumers and staff, to open this service, which was a key ACT Labor election commitment and I know will provide an important and supportive space for families in Canberra at a difficult time.

DR PATERSON: Minister, can you outline the engagement and work that was completed in bringing together the early pregnancy unit?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Dr Paterson for the supplementary question. The early pregnancy unit has really centred the consumer voice in the design of this service to ensure that it meets the needs of women and pregnant people. As I mentioned on Tuesday, many would have seen Mrs Karen Schlage’s very powerful story across the media when the unit was opened last week and the really pivotal role that she had in bringing this service together with Canberra Health Services.

During the maternity services inquiry, Mrs Schlage generously shared her story of losing her son, Charlie, who was delivered on a surgical ward after she had been labouring in an emergency department. Karen and her husband sadly also lost a daughter, Sophia, at Centenary Hospital, at just under 17 weeks. Following Karen’s story, there have been national calls for early pregnancy units to be incorporated in all facilities across Australia to better support early pregnancy loss in inpatient settings.

The unit will support overnight stays, provide separate treatment spaces and a waiting area and integrate a new model of care to provide more holistic care for women and pregnant people and their families. The unit is designed to be a quiet space, with adjustable lighting and soft decor. It is a sensitive, purpose-built environment aimed at minimising exposure to the emergency department, to other women and people in advanced pregnancy, and to postnatal women and people with newborn infants. Input from consumers, clinicians and carer representatives has been invaluable in ensuring that the design of this new unit will meet the needs of women and pregnant people who require this care.

Karen was recently awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship to explore further supports at the time of early pregnancy loss. I look forward to hearing how the ACT government can continue to support our community through these difficult times, as a result of her lessons.

MS ORR: Minister, how is the expansion of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children improving services to the ACT community?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Ms Orr for the supplementary question. The ACT government is continuing to improve women’s health services as part of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children expansion project, with a number of new services opened and more to come. This includes children’s services as well, with the paediatric high care ward the first part of the expansion to open and, last year, the purpose-built maternity assessment unit and the new gynaecology day unit.

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