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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 16 August 2018) . . Page.. 3045 ..


There are concerns about maternity services. There are many concerns. I agree with the minister that a lot of what I hear is a very positive response at a very joyful time in people’s lives. Being delivered of a healthy baby in a routine delivery is an occasion of great joy. The feedback I get is substantially that the staff do a great job.

But the other part of the feedback that I get is that the staff do a great job in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. This was borne out by the head of the women’s and children’s hospital during the estimates process, when she said that the staff of the women’s and children’s hospital were under unrelenting pressure; in fact, I think there had been psychologists in the department to assist staff to deal with this unrelenting pressure. That does spill over into patient care, it does spill over into high turnover of staff and it does spill over into a range of criticisms that I have received from midwives, mothers, families and people who are closely associated with the women’s and children’s hospital that the maternity services are under a huge amount of pressure.

I do welcome the revitalisation of Calvary maternity. I am still very sceptical that a three-bed increase is all that is needed. There is much that I hear about Calvary, and the position put to me is that they would like to expand their midwifery-led maternity teams—that has not been funded—and that they could easily provide three midwifery-led teams rather than the current one.

I know this is an issue that has passed over the minister’s desk, and it is an issue that gives me considerable concern. It relates to a particular family, but it shows some of the things that I think are of concern. One of the things that we should always be concerned about is the amount of intervention in births, and we are seeing an increasing amount of intervention. The minister today quoted some very encouraging figures in relation to episiotomies, but there are still high instances of assisted births, either with forceps or by caesarean section. Sometimes I get the impression—and it has certainly been reported to me—that people felt they were pushed into having a caesarean section when they would have preferred at least to have tried for a natural birth.

This highlights a case which I know the minister has dealt with. I know that the constituent has written to the minister as well as to me. A woman was pregnant with twins; this was, I think, her third pregnancy. She had had unproblematic births previously, but when she presented at the hospital she was told that because both her twins were breech they did not have the skills to allow her to go to a natural birth; there would be very few people who could deliver breech-presenting twins at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children and, if she turned up in an unscheduled way, they could not guarantee that there would be anyone skilled enough to deliver breech-presenting twins.

The family in question eventually took the decision that they would have to go to the private system. They found an obstetrician who had rights at John James hospital, and those twins were delivered naturally, even though they were both breech, whereas the path that they were being pushed down when they were at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children was that they should have an elective caesarean section and not even try to deliver the babies naturally.


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