HAPPY FAMILY: Tess the dog with Stephanie Johnston and two of her children, daughters Elivia and Emma.
HAPPY FAMILY: Tess the dog with Stephanie Johnston and two of her children, daughters Elivia and Emma. Brooke Duncan

Chinchilla mum shares her hospital experience

AMID ongoing efforts to reopen the maternity services in Chinchilla, one local mum has spoken out to share her story of excellent service at the town's hospital during her three pregnancies.

Stephanie Johnston has three children, and while only her first child, Elijah, was born at Chinchilla Hospital back in March 2014, her ante- and post-natal care for all three children occurred in Chinchilla, and she said she couldn't have been happier.

"I had about four different midwives during my whole labour for my first born and they were all excellent, like one of them sat in the shower with me for eight hours straight, she did not leave my side the whole time,” Miss Johnston said.

"I had one sneak into the kitchen to get me cordial and stuff before they were open!”

She was meant to give birth to her second child, Emma, in Chinchilla, but the day came in March 2016 - not long after a severe hailstorm damaged the hospital roofing and the ward was closed for repairs.

Miss Johnston travelled to Dalby after presenting to Chinchilla in labour, and her daughter was born safely the next morning.

"We made it with about three hours to spare,” Miss Johnston said.

"I was discharged the morning after and brought back to Chinchilla Hospital for one or two nights just so they could make sure everything was going ok, let everything recover a little bit before they sent me home. And they did admit they did keep me in a little bit longer at Chinchilla because they do enjoy having babies there, all the nurses would come in and have a bit of a cuddle and a bit of a gander!”

Her third child, Elivia, was born in January last year and plans had been to have the birth in town, but Miss Johnston said a couple of weeks before her due date she was told the hospital was on bypass.

"I was a little bit upset about it, just because I was set on at least having another child in Chinchilla Hospital just because I loved the experience, I loved the staff there, I loved the midwives, I just loved everything about it, they always made you feel that you were the safest you could be,” she said.

"So that was once again a trip to Dalby, I had a standard midwife appointment that afternoon in Chinchilla and by midnight that night I had already given birth.

"That one was a bit more of a rush delivery, I was in active labour driving down the Warrego, just because they didn't think it would progress so quickly, they didn't recommend going by ambulance, they didn't think it was needed, so that was being driven down myself, but once again as soon as she was born we were given the all clear and then we were discharged back to Chinchilla Hospital for another night.”

Miss Johnston said she wanted to share her story to emphasise the quality of staff and care at Chinchilla Hospital.

" I know Chinchilla Hospital gets a really bad rap especially with their nursing which is quite sad, but honestly I've never had a bad experience there and not just ranging from maternity services,” she said.

"The only sad part is when you get a good, like a paediatric doctor comes to town for a little while and then you build your trust up with them and then everything goes really well and then they finish off their time here and then they go elsewhere, so it is hard in that sense of just trying to find good care for them after they're born.”

For Miss Johnston, while the situation isn't ideal she said she'd much rather drive the extra time to Dalby to ensure she has a safe delivery, than push for a partial or uncertain service locally.

"It's all part and parcel of living in a rural area, you know and you undergo those risks when you choose to go through that when you live in areas like this, and that's the same for the ladies who live further out west,” she said.

"They know what they're getting into, they know what to expect... that they've got to travel so far to have a baby.

"I can understand it would be stressful living further away, but everyone's aware of it and at the end of the day you can't blame the hospital, it's not the hospital's fault. I'm sure if they hospital had their say and they had the choice they would be fully staffed.

"But I really hope there is other people who can shed a bit of positivity on it.”