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Baby born at Millicent Hospital after emergency detour


Beau 1

Beau Oliver was born at the Millicent Hospital Tuesday weighing 3.5k

by S Lowe 5THE FM’s newsonlinewattlerangenow

A Reedy Creek woman in labour narrowly avoided a roadside birth after an emergency detour to the Millicent Hospital in the early hours of Tuesday morning.  Beau Oliver was born at 4.30 am weighing 3.5k, just minutes after the couple arrived at the hospital.

Madeline and Josh Hancock were expecting their second child to be born at the Mt Gambier Hospital when Madeline felt the first twinges of labour at 1-30 am Tuesday morning. She woke husband Josh soon after and they put their delivery plan into action. The couple have a 2 ½ year old son Tait and labour had taken 15 hours when he was born so they expected to have at least a few hours before the actual birth.

At 2-45am Josh called his parents to stay with their son Tait, knowing it would take about 30 minutes for them to arrive. They arrived at 3-15am and Josh and Madeline left at 3-30am. They contacted the Mt Gambier Hospital to let them know they were on their way. Madeline’s contractions were 15 minutes apart but they were not concerned about reaching Mt Gambier at this stage, thinking they had time and no alternative but to go to Mt Gambier Hospital where they were booked in to deliver.

Josh said Madeline was in normal labour for the first part of the trip, but half an hour later he could hear a shift in her breathing and she told him she needed to push.
Josh and Madeline are patients of Dr James Bushell from the Medical Clinic Millicent, so when they stopped for a few minutes to make Madeline more comfortable, Josh phoned Dr Bushell to tell him Madeline was in labour and they were on their way to Mt Gambier

Josh said he’d been present for the birth of their son Tait so he could tell when Madeline’s labour changed to pushing, but they were still 40 ks from Millicent and he was concerned they would not reach Mt Gambier Hospital in time.
“When I rang the hospital they told me not to speed, but my wife is on all fours on the back seat of the car because she could not  sit and she is in full pushing stage, ready to give birth; what choice do I have?”
“My dilemma at this stage, as the father and husband is – do I stop and help her or do I keep driving to get help?”
“All I wanted to do was get to a hospital, doctor or no doctor, at least there would be a nurse who could help us, and I wouldn’t be alone delivering the baby on the side of the road.” Josh said as a farmer he probably could have delivered the baby, but it’s not ideal.

“As the lights of Millicent came into view I told Madeline I could see the lights and we might make it to get help.”

Madeline said her body had taken over and all the panting in the world would not stop the baby from being born. “I was about to tell Josh to stop and help me into the back so that I could at least lie down to deliver and it was just then he told me he could see the lights of Millicent.”
“ I knew I was about to give birth but Josh saying he could see the lights, gave me hope that we might reach help in time,” said Madeline. “The book says to pant but panting wasn’t helping.”
Josh said he was still undecided whether to go to Millicent or turn onto the by-pass to Mt Gambier as they had planned, so he called Dr Bushell again at 4-20am.
“I told Dr Bushell Madeline was pushing and he told me to go straight to the Millicent Hospital and he would meet us there. We were now facing an emergency. Dr Bushell said he would assess Madeline and decide whether she could go onto Mt Gambier and if that was the case, he would follow us.”

Dr Bushell rang the Millicent Hospital at 4.21am and told them to prepare for a birth and to call a midwife. Madeline and Josh  arrived just moments before Dr Bushell and were waiting at the emergency door when he arrived at 4-26am and let them in.  The 2 nurses on duty were preparing the delivery room.

Madeline was taken straight to the delivery room and the baby was born 2 contractions later –  just after 4-30am.  The midwife had arrived 5 minutes after Dr Bushell,  just in time for the birth.


Proud parents Madeline and Josh Hancock with new born son Beau

It is 2 years since birthing was stopped at the Millicent Hospital but Madeline and Josh praised the nurses on duty saying, “ they were amazing and were prepared to deal with such an emergency.”

“It’s thrilling to have a baby and we wanted the same experience we had with our first one ,” said Josh. “ We wanted a natural birth if possible and we’ve had a good outcome with Madeline and Beau safe and well; but the lead up during those last hours were, to say the least – not enjoyable.”

“It’s a lonely feeling, on a dark road with your wife in labour, telling you she is pushing and the baby is going to be born any minute. “

“My chest was tight, I felt sick and I knew there was nothing ideal about delivering the baby by myself on the side of the road in the dark; it was 4 degrees too. I just kept thinking that if I could get to a hospital I could get help.”

After their experience on Tuesday the couple said they believe that commonsense should prevail in the decision making about services in the country. “Closing facilities like Millicent Hospital Obstetrics is a backward step in a developed country.  Why can’t low-risk births take place at the Millicent Hospital.  A hospital safer than the back of a car.”

With some back-up from Mt Gambier doctors,  couldn’t we still be having babies at the Millicent Hospital,  they ask.  “Surely it is better option for a doctor to drive from Mt Gambier to Millicent to help with a birth,  than a woman in labour to be driven to Mt Gambier.”

Communities like Millicent built hospitals because they wanted  facilities to be closer to the people needing them and it worked for years.  Taking them away is no solution, it’s a backward step Josh says.

Reedy Creek is approximately 140k from Mt Gambier and 90k from Millicent. Naracoorte is a similar distance but when they inquired about an appointment in the early stages of the pregnancy there wasn’t one available and this would have meant delays in telling family, so they decided to come to Dr Bushell in Millicent, who had delivered their first son.

If Dr Bushell had not been available Tuesday to put emergency plans in place, the new parents said they would almost certainly have had Beau in the car on the side of the road because this labour was much quicker than they expected, lasting just 3 hours from Madeline’s first twinge.

Josh and Madeline are also concerned for other expectant parents in the region, many of them  farmers like Josh who can’t  pack up in the weeks leading up to the birth and stay in Mt Gambier or Adelaide to be closer to facilities, and if the mother-to-be must stay closer to available services, the new father may miss out on the birth because he can’t get there on time.

“There’s nothing ideal about this situation,” they said.

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…and baby makes four. Madeline and Josh with big brother Tait and latest arrival Beau.

Josh’s family was involved in the Kingston Hospital when the obstetrics services were closed there. The people of Kingston were told they didn’t need obstetric services because Millicent Hospital was just down the road; only to find a short time later that Millicent Hospital Obstetric Services would not be just down the road; because they would be closed too they said.

“If we’d known this was going to happen perhaps we would have fought harder to keep Kingston’s services, but we were assured Millicent would be available.”

Madeline and Josh have only positive things to say about their stay at Millicent Hospital. Josh can stay with Madeline and the new baby, he can make trips home to see Tait and bring him in to see his mun and the new baby and Josh can even fit in some farm work when needed. The flexibility works well for us all, we can share the whole experience and the staff here has been amazing. It’s relaxed and just a wonderful experience at the Millicent Hospital they said.

Editors note:- A public meeting in Millicent, attended by 650 people voicing their objection about the planned closure of Obstetric Services at the Millicent Hospital and a petition of thousands of signatures tabled in parliament 2 years ago, failed to changed the mind of Country Health SA and the closure went ahead. All Obstetric Services have now been closed between Murray Bridge and Mt Gambier, a distance of 364k.

Shadow Health Minister convinced by public outpouring of concern

rob lucas

Shadow Health Minister Rob Lucas

by S Lowe 5THE FM newsonline wattlerangenow

Hon Rob Lucas MLC outlined his plan for mothers to birth in Millicent again, plans to break up Country Health SA (CHSA) into regions, and his on-going commitment to this issue when he spoke with 5THE FM’s Rebekah Lowe.

The closure of obstetric services at the Millicent Hospital continues to be a major concern for the communities of Wattle Range and surrounding districts, reaching as far as Kingston and Robe with mothers in labor having to travel to Mt Gambier Hospital to birth, now that all obstetric services have been closed between Murray Bridge and Mt Gambier, a distance of over 360k’s.

Mr Lucas confirmed that a Liberal Government will re – introduce obstetric services at the Millicent Hospital. Mr Lucas originally made the announcement at the ‘Save our Hospital Services Public Meeting’ held in Millicent on July 31st 2013. He recalled a cold winter night in Millicent when many hundreds (650) people turned out and the public out-pouring of concern about the closure of obstetric service, convinced him that he must make the decision to re-instate the service.

The interview transcript, aired on Wednesday 12th March 2014, follows:-


It was revealed in June of last year that Country Health SA would be closing obstetric services at the Millicent Hospital claiming that the Medical Clinic Millicent could not provide a 24X7 service with their staffing levels at the time.

This announcement came after  long drawn out contractual negotiations between the Medical Clinic and CHSA who insisted on a one-size-fits-all contract being rolled out across the state. The Millicent doctors wanted consideration for the community’s needs included in that contract and negotiations stalled.

Recruiting doctors has been made more difficult for the private practice due to the loss of services  at the hospital, which includes dialysis, chemotherapy, mental health, gastroenterology, physiotherapy, obstetrics and reduced staffing levels. Without these services doctors and nurses become de-skilled. These cuts to services makes it difficult to attract staff.

CHSA Jayne Downs addressed WR Council in June and said that obstetrics would not be closed. In July it was revealed that there was documentation to the contrary and obstetric services were going to be closed and this decision had been made by CHSA,before Jayne Downs address to Council.

A Public Meeting was called and attended by CHSA ‘s Helen Chalmers and Peter Chapman representing the Health Minister Jack Snelling who was invited, but did not attend.

Shadow Minister Rob Lucas attend and committed a Liberal Government, if elected, to re-introduce obstetric services at the Millicent Hospital.

Mr Lucas also committed to meet with the Medical Clinic doctors and today we are speaking with the Shadow Minister, can you tell us Mr Lucas what came out of that meeting with the local doctors?

Hon Rob Lucas MLC

 “A number of things came out of that meeting, and if we are elected we will re-introduce obstetrics  at the Millicent Hospital,” he said.

“We have had some frank discussions with the doctors at Millicent (Medical Clinic Millicent) and if we are elected we will have further discussion with them after having met with Country Health (CHSA). We will also need to have discussions with other stakeholders in terms of what model we are able to provide to re-introduce obstetric services in Millicent.”

When  asked whether he envisaged a new service, or the re-instating of the original service he replied, “ I think the goal is,  the goal for all of us ……and I also think the people of Millicent, want the service they had, re-instated…………so we will be looking at doing that.”

“When we spoke with the doctors they did put forward an alternative model, given the staff available at the time and I understand since those talks they have continued to try to attract staff, and the way I see it is that to have this service operating, they need certainty to help them attract staff and I think the first thing they need is a Minister who is committed to trying to find a solution to this problem, instead of a Minister looking for excuses to justify the cut that has been made.”

“So they will need some certainty to help them attract staff and then they will have to see if they can attract and retain an anaesthetist and the GP obstetricians that are going to be required in Millicent, to continue with the service’

“They have some firm views in terms of the sort of back up that they are going to need in certain circumstances………….and if I am elected, if I become Minister,  I will need to have those discussions with CHSA and the practitioners at the Mt Gambier Hospital, to see how we can arrive at this solution…………….. to continue with some obstetrics at the Millicent Hospital.”


Mr Lucas it seems that regional people are not being heard, we can object but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. If there is no change of government, will you continue to campaign for us for this and other issues?

Hon Rob Lucas MLC

“Well I certainly will, and I know your local member Mitch Williams will continue to campaign for the local community as well, but certainly I am going to take an on-going interest. “

“I am a Mt Gambier boy originally, and I know the south east well,  I know the Millicent community well,  I know the importance if this particular issue for the Millicent Community, and certainly with local member Mitch Williams, we as Opposition, will take up the battle, but I think it will be quite difficult, the Labour Govt has made it quite clear what their attitude is; if ever they were going to change their mind it would be in the period leading up to an election. They haven’t done so…….so I don’t hold much hope that a Labour Govt will change their mind, not much hope of Premier Weatherill or Mr Snelling changing their view on this particular issue.


The cuts weren’t about funding, even though CHSA agreed to re-enter negotiations with the local doctors,  the services continue to be cut, in fact they are continually being watered down. We are still getting reports from young mothers/parents who are being put in very unsafe situations, travelling to Mt Gambier from Robe and Beachport, in labour.  So the situation is not just about Millicent but about the surrounding areas and it is very worrying to this community that something terrible could happen. It isn’t just about services is it, but about safety too?

Hon Rob Lucas MLC:

“I have seen the media reports and I do hope that will not happen and I’m sure you and your community have the same hope that circumstances don’t eventuate that many people are worried about.  All I can say again is that if we are elected we will be looking for a solution to the problems down there and we will make sure that CHSA are given firm writing instructions that…….perhaps I can say it as gently as that………. firm writing instructions……… that any new government wants them to draw the line on previous government policy, and the new government  has been elected and it wants a solution……… and come back to me, if I happen to be the Minister, with options to arrive at the solution to this particular issue.”

Rebekah Lowe:

We have not really been given a good reason for the cancellation of this service, other than CHSA’s Peter Chapman who said that birth numbers were down at the Millicent Hospital because women chose to birth at Mt Gambier; this was however disputed and it was discovered that women were being told to go to Mt Gambier by CHSA staff at the Millicent Hospital and this was the reason for the reduction in birth numbers.

It is good to know that you are taking an interest in this particular issue but will you (Liberal Party)  look at reinstating other services that have been cut from the Millicent Hospital.

Hon Rob Lucas MLC:

“No, the only commitment we have given thus far is in relation is  obstetrics service………..I acknowledge………….. I understood when I  came to the Public Meeting that there has been a long history of other services being removed.  The only commitment we have given thus far is to re-instate obstetrics services.”

“What we are facing is………… the current government has locked in $1,033 million in budget cuts in health over the next three years, and we don’t know where they are because the government won’t tell us…………. because they want to keep that secret until after the election………. so whoever is in after the election is going to have a very difficult budget situation………. so we are not going to over promise from Opposition. We will need to have to have a look, if we are elected, at what the budget circumstances are and make decisions accordingly. If it is possible then, we would look at that, but I don’t want to raise expectation in the Millicent community over the specific commitment we have given, which relates to obstetric services.”

Rebekah Lowe:

Why is its important to you to save obstetric services in this region?

Hon Rob Lucas MLC:

“Well the first reason is that there was such a public outpouring of concern about this particular issue,  I remember the cold wintry evening in Millicent when many hundreds of constituents turned out to voice their concern to people like me…………and the Minister (Jack Snelling) who did not turn up……….. and many others, and that is a fair indication of the concern.”

*“ I wasn’t the Shadow Minister when the other services were cut and I don’t know if there was such a show of concern through public meetings but I think with obstetrics…..we’ve seen a similar thing with the closure of paediatric services at the Modbury Hospital, I think when you are talking about children and babies,there is a significant concern from mums, dads, and families about the loss of these services from their health services and that is why we have seen such significant opposition to this issue in Millicent.”

 “I am not familiar with the 10 year plan but we (Liberal) announced yesterday another element as part of our health policy, we intend to break up CHSA.  We think one authority which is meant to cover all country health service from Ceduna to Port MacDonnell makes no sense.”

“People located centrally can’t have any feel for what’s going on in local regions.”

 “We’ll be looking to break Country Health up into at least 3 regions, and hopefully the people running their particular region will be more in touch with the needs of the local communities and more aware of things like the  10 year plan and perhaps more responsive to things like that, but I cannot comment on the 10 year plan.”


Thank you so much, it has been a real pleasure to speak to you Mr Lucas.

The Health Minister Jack Snelling, was invited onto the program, our request was acknowledges but at the time of going to air an interview time had not been established with the Minister.

CHSA issued us with a statement last week saying that women can birth in the Mt Gambier and Naracoorte Hospital.

Editors comment:

*Millicent Hospital Services lost include: – chemotherapy, reduced staff, mental health, obstetric, physiotherapy, dialysis, gastroenterology.

**Mr Glen Brown, former CEO of Millicent Hospital and current HAC member (Health Advisory Committee)  said at the Public Meeting,  the 10 year plan developed in 2009 for 2010-19 for the Millicent Hospital included:-

  • Emergency  –  to be maintained and enhanced
  • In-patient – to be maintained
  • Obstetrics  –  to be maintained
  • Medical  –  the same to be maintained

When the Hospital Board was removed, the Health Advisory Committee (HAC) was established to advise the Minister for Health, on the health needs of the community.

It would seem that the needs of the community and the advice of the advisory body has been disregarded and the removal of services has continued.

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Post natal care not available for one new mum

2014-03-03 23.54.32

Alexis Masters

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.

Felicity’s story:-

“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.