Health service defends sending mothers to give birth in Nowra

THE Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District says expectant mothers transferred from Milton Ulladulla Hospital to Nowra to give birth are not adding stress to Shoalhaven Hospital’s maternity ward.

Assessed at Milton, expectant mothers at risk of childbirth complications are being referred to Shoalhaven to deliver.

Virtually all women expecting their first or fourth children, and all indigenous expectant mothers, have been caught up in the increased focus on referring pregnancies with a range of risk factors to the better equipped Shoalhaven Hospital.

Pregnant women from the Milton Ulladulla area with histories of difficult births, caesarean sections or health problems including gestational diabetes are being referred to Nowra or even further afield, including Wollongong.

An Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District spokesperson said from April to June, 18 women were referred from Milton Ulladulla to Shoalhaven to give birth. 

“Shoalhaven is easily able to accommodate this relatively small increase in numbers which, on average, equates to just over one additional birth per week,” the spokesperson said.

“There is no impact on women’s length of stay in hospital, as this is determined based on the individual’s circumstances.”

The spokesperson said Wollongong Hospital was the speciality hospital for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven region and was equipped to deal with women who required specialist services for the delivery of their babies. 

“There will always be a need to transfer patients to higher level care, including to Wollongong Hospital and other speciality services around the state, for example Children’s Hospitals or to hospitals with specialist facilities, such as spinal units and burns unit,” the spokesperson said.

Milton doctor Josette Docherty said the official approach to mothers giving birth at Milton had changed “quite significantly” in recent months.

“We’re now not allowed to look after the women we have looked after for years,” Dr Docherty said.

“We don’t agree with what they’re trying to get us to do, but at the moment we have no choice.”

Dr Docherty rejected health service claims the hospital was not equipped to handle anything more than simple births.

One of four doctors providing obstetric service to Milton Hospital, Dr Docherty stressed, “We are all very well trained, holding the Advanced Diploma of Obstetrics from the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

“As such we are credentialed to manage a wide range of obstetric problems, and are able to safely undertake complex deliveries, including emergency and elective caesarean section and instrumental deliveries, advanced gynaecological procedures, and to perform basic early and late pregnancy ultrasound scanning.” 

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