SHUTTING UP SHOP: Expectant Chinchilla mothers, Sami Holland and Sam Currie outside the Chinchilla Hospital.
SHUTTING UP SHOP: Expectant Chinchilla mothers, Sami Holland and Sam Currie outside the Chinchilla Hospital. Kate McCormack

Maternity services close doors yet again

CHINCHILLA Hospital's maternity services will be unavailable once again as the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service attempts to recruit new staff.

The maternity services were only re-opened in November following months of by-pass, meaning expectant mother had to travel to Dalby for deliveries.

Darling Downs Health executive director rural Joanne Shaw said there was a planned closure over the Christmas and New Year period to enable staff to take leave.

Services re-opened on Monday, January 7 to accommodate low-risk births and antenatal and postnatal care four days a week, from Monday to Thursday.

But Darling Downs Health has since declared the maternity ward will undergo an indefinite closure from January 17 until they can find new maternity trained staff.

"We are currently recruiting additional staff and hope to have new team members on board soon,” Ms Shaw said.

"Local birthing at Chinchilla Hospital may not be possible while this recruitment is under way and we transition and train staff to lead this personalised standard of care.”

Darling Downs Health Services did not specify the reason the current maternity staff would not be staying on.

For expectant mothers, Sami Holland and Sam Currie, having the local maternity ward available for their second births would have been the ideal.

But, with their due dates coming up in late February to early March, this opportunity is looking less likely.

Mrs Holland gave birth to her first child, Hudson, at the Chinchilla Hospital two and a half years ago and couldn't have had a better experience.

"As disappointed as I am with the closure, I think the issue comes from higher up, the hospital here isn't to blame,” she said.

"That said, travelling to hospital to give birth an hour away becomes an even more complicated task for local families who don't have the luxury of having friends or family around to offer support.”

Mrs Currie said the closure wasn't just an inconvenience, but could also pose health risks for mothers coming from Tara, Miles and more rural properties.

"It's just dangerous. Pregnant mothers now have to travel an extra hour to Dalby to receive medical attention,” she said.

Kara Favelle is due to give birth any day now and only found out about the maternity service closure at her antenatal appointment last week.

"It's not what we had planned, but we will just have to get on with it. We have been told to jump in the car and head to Dalby as soon as I go into labour,” Mrs Favelle said.

"I will still be receiving my postnatal appointments with my midwife at home in Chinchilla but I don't know whether this will be the case for other local mums.”

During the 2016-2017 period there were 51 births at the Chinchilla Hospital with the maternity services since adopting a midwifery-led model of care.

"Our midwifery team has been keeping our pregnant patients informed of all birthing options available to them,” Ms Shaw said.

"Mothers-to-be are referred to Dalby or Toowoomba Hospital to birth depending on the complexity of their case.”

Dr Ken Gilmour has been a doctor in Chinchilla for more than 30 years and has been following the maternity service debacle for many months.

"They (DDHHS) could be doing more. Closing the maternity services is a major inconvenience for expectant mothers, particularly if they have other children or a partner who is working,” Dr Gilmour said.

"Practising in a medically isolated town like Chinchilla can be quite daunting for young midwives and theatre nurses.

"Recruiting more maternity trained personnel to come out here is one thing, but getting them to stay is another,” he said.