In a surprise move, the local health district will close Murwillumbah Hospital’s birthing unit, effective tomorrow (Friday).
The decision, which was only uncovered when disgruntled patients approached Richmond MP Justine Elliot this week, was the subject of a speech in parliament by Labor’s Walt Secord last night.
But the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) said the move was not politically driven, rather the result of its failure to find a new doctor to support the midwives working at the unit.
Ms Elliot attacked National Party MPs Thomas George and Geoff Provest ‘for closing the important maternity birthing service at the Murwillumbah Hospital’.
‘I have been contacted by many concerned mothers today who have been told they can’t access the birthing centre at Murwillumbah as it will be closed from this Friday,’ she said.
‘This is a disgraceful act. Only two months after the NSW state election and the National Party have moved to shut this vital local service,’ she added.
‘Our community will not tolerate the downgrading of the hospital’s maternity unit. This unacceptable proposal will put at risk the lives of babies and mothers.
‘The Liberal National’s Government decision to downgrade Murwillumbah hospital is an insult to locals. They are cutting funding for services on the North Coast to prop up problems in Sydney,’ Ms Elliot said.
But Bernadette Loughnane, executive director of the Tweed Byron Health Service Group, said the relocation of the birthing service was an ‘interim’ measure, which had come about ‘as a result of changes to the available medical workforce on the neonatal roster.’
‘Currently, the doctors provide the back-up service necessary for babies that are born in the midwifery group practice model of care and who require advanced clinical care’ she told Echonetdaily
‘Extensive work to maintain this back-up service has been ongoing since December 2014 but regrettably has not been successful, resulting in the current model of care now [being] unavailable. This means birthing mothers will need to attend The Tweed Hospital Birthing Unit from this Friday,’ she added.
Mums hard hit: Secord
But Mr Secord says the cuts are in line with others taking place in the same health district, specifically the recent cut of 182 nursing and midwifery hours a week from Lismore Base Hospital – resulting in patients are being turned away from the women’s care unit.
‘It seems like the Nationals have declared war on north coast mums with the slashing of 182 nursing and midwifery hours a week in Lismore and the closure of the Murwillumbah District Hospital’s midwifery practice and birthing service.
‘This is the human face of the Abbott cuts on NSW and the North Coast.
‘As each day goes by, we see the impact of these cuts and we see that they hit the most vulnerable hardest.
‘North coast mums are taking the brunt of the state and federal government cuts to health.’
Post natal care to contine
Ms Loughnane said that caesarean and post natal mothers and the antenatal clinic will continue as normal from Murwillumbah District Hospital.
‘Women should continue to liaise with their allocated Midwife by phone, when in labour and prior to arriving at The Tweed Hospital. This will ensure that their Midwife will travel to The Tweed Hospital and be available to meet and care for them.
‘The Murwillumbah Midwives will still be the primary Midwife for women booked with the Tweed Valley Birthing Service. The Midwives will follow and care for their women at The Tweed Hospital during birthing and all other aspects of care will continue at Murwillumbah Hospital or in the home,’ Ms Loughnane said.