Baringa to shut obstetric services

FOR 15 years Baringa Private Hospital has provided the community with an alternative to the public hospital maternity service, but in six months Coffs Harbour mothers will be left with just the one option.

After growing public speculation, Baringa Private Hospital yesterday announced that it will phase out its maternity services in December.

The rising cost of indemnity insurance for private obstetricians, coupled with a continuing low health insurance take-up rate among young Coffs Harbour families, are said to be major factors in the decision.

Greg Jenke, chief executive officer for Ramsay Health Care, Coffs Harbour, said that these two contributing factors had seen an exodus of specialist obstetricians and GPs from private maternity services provided by Baringa.

"Between now and December, private patients will be able to deliver their babies at Baringa," Mr Jenke said.

"This will allow sufficient time for Baringa midwives to decide whether to follow the patients to the Coffs Harbour Health Campus or remain at Baringa in a new role."

Mr Jenke said it was a difficult decision to shut down the highly respected service, but one that in the end had to be made.

"With the increasing pressure of insurance and the low take-up rate of health insurance, it was inevitable," he said.

"I think for some time we were in denial, but in the end we would rather make the decision ourselves than to be told by NSW Health to close," he said.

"We are a different hospital now and have to prepare ourselves for future growth.

"The base hospital has a very good maternity unit and I have no doubt that they will be able to cope with the increase in numbers."

North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford said the public and private sectors would be better able to pool specialist and midwifery resources and ensure a sustainable maternity service for the people of Coffs Harbour and surrounding areas.

In the coming weeks senior nursing staff from the Coffs Harbour Health Campus will be meeting Baringa midwives to show them around the hospital and discuss future career opportunities.

A spokesman from the North Coast Area Health Service said that in due course, recruitment would be taking place.

There are currently three visiting obstetricians at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

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