by S Lowe 5THE FM newsonline wattlerangenow
Many hospital services have been lost to the wider South East community as Country Health SA (CHSA) continues to downgrade Millicent Hospital and centralise services in Mt Gambier. Felicity and James Masters wanted to speak to us about their recent birthing experience and how the decision to downgrade their local hospital services, which has included cancelling Obstetric Services has affected them, especially when post natal care was not available.
Felicity and James had two children and were expecting their third. Their daughter was born in Millicent Hospital seven years ago. Five years ago when Felicity went into labour with their son, they rang the Millicent Hospital to say they were coming in and were surprised to be told that there was no anaesthetist available and they were sent to the Mt Gambier Hospital for the birth.
Two weeks ago (Saturday) in her third pregnancy, Felicity began having contractions. Her husband drove her to the Mt Gambier Hospital. After approximately 9 ½ hours, the contractions stopped and she was discharged from hospital to go home to Millicent.
Contractions began again soon after she arrived home and they continued all week.
“I called the Millicent Hospital twice during that week. I was having contractions all week and wasn’t sure what to do. They told me when I rang, there was no midwife on duty, at Millicent Hospital, and I must to ring the Mt Gambier Hospital.”
“I rang the Millicent Hospital again, later in the week, it was on the Thursday of that week. The contractions were intense and I was told they couldn’t give me any information and I should call Mt Gambier Hospital. I felt as if they didn’t want to help me or weren’t allowed to help me.”
“During the night, at about 1-30 am (Fri), we decided to go to the hospital again and our daughter Alexis was born at 9-38am on Friday at the Mt Gambier Hospital. It was a good experience for me because she was delivered by Dr Bushell and I knew the midwife. “
“All of the nurses at Mt Gambier were good except one, but generally they looked after me well.”
“After she was born I asked if I could transfer back to Millicent Hospital to recover from the birth, but they said I couldn’t go back to the Millicent Hospital because there was no mid-wife on duty.”
Country Health SA (CHSA) provided 5THE FM/wattlerangenow with a statement about services offered at the Millicent hospital on February 13th 2014 which included – ‘Pre and post natal care continues to be offered at Millicent Hospital as normal.’
Felicity could not return to Millicent hospital because post natal care wasn’t available for her, she told me.
“ I was discharged to go home 4 ½ hours after I gave birth.”
“They (Mt Gambier Hospital) would not transfer me back to the Millicent Hospital because there was no midwife on duty, but they discharged me to go back to my home, where there was no medical help if I needed it.”
Felicity and James traveled home to Millicent by car, with their new baby daughter Alexis who was 4 ½ hours old.
“It probably wasn’t a very clever thing to do,” Felicity said. “I couldn’t stay in Mt Gambier because my children were being taken care of in Millicent and my husband couldn’t drive up and back every day. I wasn’t allowed to transfer back to the Millicent Hospital, so I just went home.”
“If I had my baby in Millicent I would have been happy to stay after the birth, but being so much further away in Mt Gambier, made it too difficult.”
“The trip to Mt Gambier, while I was in labour, was very difficult because I was in pain, I couldn’t sit properly and I didn’t know if it might be a quick delivery because it was my third pregnancy, or if it may be an emergency if something went wrong on the way. I didn’t know what was happening.”
“My husband wasn’t impressed and was very on-edge …. it was very stressful for us both.”
James said, “It was dangerous, inconvenient and expensive. As a father there was a lot more pressure on me driving my wife so much further to the hospital, not knowing if something might go wrong on the way. She had been in labour for a week by the time we left for the hospital the second time. I couldn’t take the children to see their mum and new sister after the birth because of the extra distance and cost.”
“When the baby was almost due, I made sure I had the car full of petrol and extra cans of fuel just in case, because I didn’t know when we may have to go to Mt Gambier or how often, I made sure I was prepared for what-ever may happen”
Felicity said she’d had no medical care since the birth but had made an appointment to see her local doctor for a check up.
“I think the new visiting midwife scheme is a good idea, especially for mums in the country areas or on farms but I am happy to visit the hospital. I think they should have both services so that we can make an appointment at the hospital if we need help and the visiting midwife can visit mums who live further out.”
Felicity said she had been visited by the midwife during the two weeks since the birth and the midwife was excellent.
“I feel sorry for mothers further out-of-town in Kingston, Robe and Beachport and the extra distance they have to travel while they are in labour, it was bad enough for us having to travel from Millicent. We are going back to the time when there were no medical services close handy and things went wrong.”
Felicity said her sister lives in Bordertown, had two difficult births and when her third child was due, it was in a breach position. When labour began, they rang Naracoorte Hospital and were told there was no anaesthetist and she would need to go to Mt Gambier. Her husband drove her to Mt Gambier, (185K’s) from Bordertown, where she had an emergency C-section.
A spokesperson for the Naracoorte Hospital said today the hospital does have full obstetric and anaesthetic cover 7 days a week. If there are any gaps in the service, the community is advised and patients are forwarded to Mt Gambier.
Felicity and James wanted to highlight the difficulties facing new parents since the closure of Obstetric Services at the Millicent Hospital. They found the additional travel when Felicity was in labour, the stress on the father driving her there and cuts to staffing at the Millicent Hospital which prevented Felicity returning there for her recovery, all negatively impacted their experience, but in highlighting these problems are not criticizing the hospitals, staff or any individual.
The closure of Obstetric Services at the Millicent Hospital in July 2013 caused a public outcry with 650 people attending the Public Meeting and a petition signed by thousands of concerned residents was tabled in parliament by local member Hon Mitch Williams. CHSA said they would re-enter negotiations with the local doctors but to date Obstetric Services remain closed at the Millicent Hospital.
Obstetric Services between Murray Bridge and Mt Gambier, a distance of 360K’s approximatel, have now been closed.
Country Health said today in a prepared statement for 5THE FM/wattlerangenow:-
‘Women from Millicent or the surrounding area who are in labour can attend their birthing hospital at any time. If they are unsure when to leave home they also can seek advice about how their labour is progressing by phoning staff at Mt Gambier or Naracoorte Hospitals.’
‘CHSA confirmed that nurses and midwives at the Millicent Hospital are available to provide advice to women in labour.’
‘Following the birth, women can continue to access post natal care at their birthing hospital in Mount Gambier or Naracoorte. Women who wish to receive the remainder of their post natal care at Millicent Hospital are transferred at the most appropriate time for them and their baby,’ said CHSA.