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CHSA responds to obstetrics and staffing cuts

by S Lowe 5THE FM newsonline wattlerangenow

Correspondence in relation to the on-going health crisis in Millicent and surrounding districts was discussed at the recent Wattle Range Council meeting Tuesday 8th April; consisting of two letters received from Dr Peter Chapman Acting CEO and Ms Maree Geraghty CEO Country Health SA (CHSA).

Mayor Gandolfi wrote to the Minister for Health Jack Snelling on December 4th 2013 and February 10th 2014, regarding alternative models for obstetric services and staffing issues at the Millicent Hospital respectively

Dr Chapman’s letter dated, March 14th said he was responding on behalf of the Minister because the government was in caretaker period due to the coming election.

Dr Chapman referred to the model of midwifery care being used in rural Queensland, saying the Mayor had pointed out that any return of obstetric service at the Millicent hospital would require the recruitment of additional doctors with obstetric skills by the Medical Clinic Millicent and to date he (Dr Chapman) believed there had been no change in their staffing of doctors with the necessary skills.

Partners of the Medical Clinic Millicent have publicly stated, the loss of hospital services continues to negatively impact  recruiting obstetricians and anaethetists, who want to work where they can use their skills. The loss of the second on-call doctor fee has also negatively impacted recruitment because doctors considering the positon don’t want the responsibility of a whole hospital with no provision for a support doctor in an emergency.

Dr Chapman also said that in view of Paul Angus resignation, the clinic was left with no anaesthetist. Recruitment by the clinic is on-going, a spokesperson told us. ( following report)

In February this year the number of clinic doctors was bolstered by the arrival of Dr Umesh Rawat who began work at the MCM along with three registrars, Drs Tann, Willoughby and McLernan.

“As advised previously, services, facilities and equipment remain available at Millicent and District Hospital and Health Service for birthing if a model can be determined, and safely and sustainably established,” Dr Chapman said.

“Millicent Hospital is owned by CHSA and the responsibility of staffing is that of the owners, the Government, and is not the responsibility of a private medical clinic,” the Mayor reminded council.

With the hospital still equipped for birthing, as Dr Chapman said in his letter, a solution to the problem and a safer option for all of the community could be achieved with the provision of additional support staff to the local doctors, who have publicly said they want to continue this service for their patients.

Dr Chapman went on to say that CHSA Local Health Network senior staff, have had discussions with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and the Millicent midwives have had a number of discussions with Ms Ros Brown, Executive Officer and Director of Nursing to explore alternative models.

He said a further meeting was planned for March 31st to provide the ANMF, local midwives and senior CHSALHN staff, the opportunity to work together to again examine potential models of midwifery care.

Dr Chapman said in his letter, and it has been publicly stated many times by CHSA’s Dr Chapman, Jayne Downs and Helen Chalmers, the reason for the closure of obstetric services in Millicent was due to the fact that the privately owned Medical Clinic Millicent was not able to recruit the number of doctors in obstetric s and anaesthetics to manage a safe obstetric service at the Millicent Hospital.

Dr Chapman’s letter did not say if the partners of the Medical Clinic Millicent were included in these discussions about alternative models.

Safety has been at the forefront of all CHSA public statements about the reasons for closure of obstetric services at the Millicent Hospital but they have closed all obstetric services between Murray Bridge and Mt Gambier, a distance of over 340 k’s.

We requested an explanation from a CHSA spokesperson, regarding their reason for these closures and were asked, “ Have there been other obstetric services closed in the region besides Millicent?”

We were also told by a CHSA spokesperson, that we should expect to travel reasonable distances, as we do live rural!

Recent reports on this site have raised many questions about the ‘safety’ of young fathers driving long distances with their wife in labour, mothers and babies unable to return to Millicent Hospital for post natal care, (promised by CHSA), because there is no midwife on duty, and being discharged (from Mt Gambier Hospital) to go home where there is no medical care and with a baby sometimes only a few hours old; often the parents live remote or rural.

At the council meeting, Mayor Gandolfi stressed his frustration with CHSA, saying he believes they have continually provided this community with false and misleading information about health services.

Successfully returned Member for MacKillop Mitch Williams MLC spoke with 5THE FM and WRN this week and expressed his concern for the safety of new parents and babies, saying he sincerely hoped there would be no tragedies, but the current situation is surely a tragedy in the making.

Shadow Health Minister Rob Lucas attended the Public Meeting held in Millicent in July 2013 and said a Liberal Government would return obstetric services to the Millicent Hospital.

He also said in a recent interview with 5THE FM,” if a Labour Government is returned, “ you will be left having to negotiate with Health Minister Jack Snelling and I don’t like your chances. If the Labour Government was ever going to change its mind about regional health services, in particular obstetric services at Millicent Hospital, it would surely have been in the lead up to an election.”

Mr Lucas said he will continue to represent the campaign to save obstetric services in Millicent, and so did Mr Williams when he visited 5THE FM this week.

Editors Comment:-

Following this report will be Mitch William’s interview in full and an interview with Geoff Brock, the man whose vote determined the path of State politics in SA at the March election 2014 when he supported the return of a Labour Government.

Following this report is an update on the response from Maree Geraghty to the Mayor’s request for an explanation, regarding staff cuts at the Millicent hospital.

 

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