Panel to probe rural Qld maternity service


A special summit of experts will look into maternity services in remote parts of Queensland amid concerns a lack of obstetrics care is putting expectant mums and babies at risk.

The death rate in rural areas without birthing services is 23.3 babies per 1000 born, almost four times higher than in towns with an obstetrics unit, The Sunday Mail reported.

Rural doctors say the closure of 40 country obstetric units is forcing women to either deliver their babies at home with no medical support or to risk a roadside birth trying to get to hospital.

Health Minister Steven Miles announced the summit on Sunday while assuring mothers and families they were in good hands.

“Queensland has the safest birthing in the country, safer than the national average and Australia leads the OECD in birthing safety,” he told reporters.

“But the death of even one mother or baby in childbirth is a tragedy and we continue to look at ways to improve.”

The task force would look at the mortality data used in the report, along with the recommendations made in 2014 to see what action needs to be taken.

Any new maternity services provided in rural areas must be done with patient safety in mind, he said.

“Some of these towns, they experience a dozen, maybe three dozen births a year … that means (health workers) may only see a birth every month or six weeks,” he said.

“And it’s difficult for them to maintain their accreditation, their skills, when they’re seeing that lower level of births.”

Mr Miles said the recently closed Theodore birthing service, in central Queensland, had been the subject of four reviews.

“The outcome of every one of those reviews was that current level of services was what can be safely be delivered in a community where there are about 35 births on average each year,” he said.

The task force is expected to meet within two weeks.

Opposition leader Deb Frecklington said investing in additional fly-in obstetrics and gynaecological services should be considered, along with encouraging more medical professionals to rural areas.

“But if you’ve a government that is intent on closing down centres like Theodore and Chinchilla, how are you going to encourage more midwives into the bush?” she asked.

Queensland has the highest rate of births without a registered midwife present in the country, with more than one child born every day outside of hospital, often on the side of the road.

Some mothers are travelling up to 600km to have their babies or have been forced to spend weeks away from their families in paid accommodation following the closure of 40 maternity units across Queensland over the past few decades.

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