Prediction of maternity mayhem

RENEWED calls for funding for an antenatal clinic at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus have met with a guarded response from Chris Crawford, chief executive officer of North Coast Area Health Service.

Following the news last week that Baringa Hospital will be closing its maternity unit in December, both the Coffs Coast Maternity Action Group (MAG) and the member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, have stressed the urgent need for the clinic.

Yesterday Mr Crawford responded that the health campus investigations into appropriate models of antenatal care for Coffs Harbour would be finalised soon.

"It is anticipated (investigations) should be finalised in the next few months," Mr Crawford said.

MAG spokeswoman, Claire Simmonds, said while the news was welcome, she would not be holding her breath.

"We've been campaigning for the establishment of a public antenatal service since 2003," Mrs Simmonds said.

"Every year we have presented Mr Crawford with a model and every year he has rejected it.

"The federal government wants to put nurses out in the community and Mr Crawford is fiddling around with GP Medicare rebates trying to find a federal way to fund this (state) hospital-based service."

She said the closure of the Baringa maternity beds would put even more strain on the overworked five obstetricians and two GP-obstetricians working at the campus.

"The unit has already seen significant increases in births over the past few years," she said.

"There are reports of women unable to access birthing rooms until late in their labours due to overcrowding."

Mr Crawford said with the ample advance notice given by Baringa, the hospital was already taking the appropriate steps to handle the extra demand.

"Both public and private patients will be able to choose the best birthing options for their circumstances," he said.

The hospital confirmed there had been an increase in births over the past year, rising from 716 births (July 2005 April 2006) to 823 for the same period this year.

This is already a reverse of the declining birth trend predicted in the Health Care Service's 2005-2008 plan.

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