THE small community of Theodore has banded together for war – but it seems the outcome has already been decided.
Following an announcement that the local hospital would no longer offer birthing services, locals began to fight – with words as their weapons and the strong history of births in the region their armour.
Tuesday will see a community-organised meeting on the future of the hospital, and locals will march down the main street.
Businesses have agreed to close for an hour so staff can attend.
However, on Thursday this week, five days before the community meeting, CQ Health chief executive Steve Williamson said the decision was based on an unacceptable risk to women and their babies, and would not be changed.
“The decision regarding the birthing service will not impact the provision of other health services at Theodore,” Mr Williamson said.
“Our priority is to provide a comprehensive and efficient health service for the people of Theodore and central Queensland.”
Local first time mum Gyselle Anderson moved back to her hometown to have her first baby – but she and her own mother, Judy Anderson, were shocked to find out she was unable to do so.
Baby Harliea is now almost six months old, and both Judy and Gyselle said having to birth in Rockhampton was incredibly difficult.
“I’m from Theodore but had moved to New South Wales, but I moved back home to have her (Harliea),” Gyselle said.
“I got told I couldn’t… they said I couldn’t have her here so I had to go to Rock(hampton), so I was back and forwards all the time for doctors appointments.
“And then they said you have to have so many appointments before you go in, you can’t just walk in and say ‘I’m in labour’.”
Her mum said the lack of personal care with constantly changing doctors and midwives throughout the pregnancy and birth was the major drawback to having the baby away from home.
Gyselle was also required to stay in Rockhampton for the weeks leading up to the birth, while her partner stayed at home in Theodore and worked.
She was also discharged from hospital at 8pm, despite the three hour drive home with a newborn baby.
The biggest challenges came when they arrived home and had no follow-up care from the Rockhampton hospital – which ultimately ended in Harliea being admitted to hospital with failure to thrive.
Local community members have banded together under the name of Save Our Theodore Maternity Services and written a fully referenced, statistically-backed petition to the Queensland Government.
In it, they reference the rise in roadside births in recent years.
“Perceptions of clinical risk are often privileged amongst health providers and policy makers in the planning of rural maternity services,” the petition reads.
“However, these perceptions do not often correspond with evidence about actual risk and how it relates to poor clinical outcomes (Barclay et al., 2016).
“Closing our birthing facility increases the odds of non-favourable clinical outcomes including increased perinatal mortality and an increased incidence of babies bring born before arrival.
“With an increase of 47% of unassisted roadside births, or born before arrival (BBA’s), since 1995, coinciding with the closure of Queensland’s rural maternity services and are understandably associated with poorer outcomes (Sue Kildea, McGhie, Gao, Rumbold, & Rolfe, 2015).”
Mr Williamson said CQ Health and Theodore’s long-term doctor, Associate Professor Bruce Chater had developed an agreement about delivering more and improved services in the town.
That agreement includes:
- Comprehensive antenatal and post-natal services
- Enhanced emergency capability
- Facilities for extra emergency cases and emergency birthing area
- After hours plan x-ray service for urgent cases
- Enhanced procedural and theatre capability
- Centre for Telehealth development
- Staff training
- Improved aged care
The meeting will be held at Theodore Hotel convention room from 11am to 12.15pm.