The Rural Doctors Association of Queensland and Liberal National Party leader, Deb Frecklington, have both weighed in to the debate surrounding rural birthing services.
It follows news that Queensland Health will convene a summit to assess the provision of maternity services in rural and remote parts of the state, after the community of Theodore protested the news that its birthing services definitely wouldn’t be reintroduced.
RDAQ president, Neil Beaton said that having the resources to safely deliver babies in rural, regional and remote areas benefited all sectors of those communities.
“Country hospitals with birthing capabilities provide a mantle of safety for patients in accidents and emergencies; and can save travel for elective procedures like endoscopy and certain operations, even dialysis and chemotherapy,” he said. “This makes birthing services everyone’s business.”
Dr Beaton said that in 2005, Queensland Health’s report of the Review of Maternity Services in Queensland, Re-birthing, recommended maternity care that was local, safe, open and honest.
“Well-nourished rural birthing services deliver exactly that,” he said. “Queenslanders, wherever they call home, deserve safety and good outcomes in maternity care and into childhood, working life, and retirement.”
Dr Beaton said the RDAQ was keeping an eye on how rural families fare compared to their urban cousins.
“Care provided by professionals who know their patients and their communities makes an important contribution to the positive outcomes reflected in the data,” he said.
“Queensland leads the nation in training doctors for generalist rural practice who are skilled to work in general practice, hospital and community settings.
“A creative approach to maternity models can support continuity and improve women’s experience when travel is unavoidable.
“Small caseloads need special efforts to maintain local skills and community confidence.”
Dr Beaton welcomed Minister Steven Miles’ summit announcement and said he looked forward to building on gains achieved in recent years for rural and remote maternity services.
Opposition leader, Deb Frecklington derided the government’s statement that Queensland was one of the safest places in Australia to give birth, noting that Labor had closed maternity services in 26 rural and regional communities across Queensland since 2000.
“As a direct result, babies born in towns with no maternity services are today almost four times as likely to die as those born closer to maternity units.
“Is Labor ashamed of its role in bringing this shocking situation about?
“Has it apologised to young mums and bubs affected by these despicable cuts?
“Not a chance.”
Ms Frecklington said the statement might be true in Health Minister, Steven Miles’ north Brisbane electorate but it wasn’t true in the bush.
She used the example of the Miles hospital, where she and her siblings were born, which had its maternity unit closed down by the Bligh government in 2007.
“It’s incredible that my mother was able to give birth to her kids at a local hospital in the 1970s, but that mums in Miles today have to travel an hour-and-a-half to Dalby to give birth, because the closer Chinchilla Hospital is on bypass.
“Does Labor think that’s progress? I think it’s a scandal.”
She said the Newman LNP government had stopped the wave of closures and re-opened maternity services in Beaudesert and Cooktown, and had planned to re-open Weipa in 2016, a plan scrapped by Labor, and were investigating restoring services in Charters Towers, Ingham, Yarrabah, Mossman and Cloncurry.
“The real truth is that Labor has annihilated rural maternity services because it can.
“It doesn’t need votes in the bush and provides second-rate health services that would cause an outcry in south east Queensland.”
Ms Frecklington said the divide between Brisbane and the rest of Queensland was wide and growing wider under the Palaszczuk government.