Pregnant pause as clinic is on hold

By BELINDA SCOTT

CLAIRE Simmonds will have fewer reasons to celebrate on February 14 than she had hoped.

The spokeswoman for Coffs Harbour's Maternity Action Group aid she had expected to be pouring champagne to celebrate the opening of a new antenatal clinic at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus on February 14, as well as celebrating Valentine's Day and a day marking a worldwide campaign to stop violence against women.

But the champagne will stay on ice because the North Coast Area Health Service does not yet have a date for the opening.

Mrs Simmonds, who has been lobbying for the service since 2003, said yesterday she felt the hold-up was political, because friends who were midwives had told her they were trained and ready to go ahead.

But she says the manager of the Health Campus, Margaret Bennett, had said recently the money was not yet available, after being confident in early December last year that the clinic would be able to start on February 1, then February 14.

"They obviously had had enough of a funding commitment to get people trained up, so what's the hold-up?" Mrs Simmonds said.

She has sought the help of Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser, who told her last week he had placed a call to North Coast Area Health Service chief executive officer Chris Crawford on Monday morning and was awaiting a reply.

On Friday, Mr Fraser said he had written to the Minister for Health, John Hatzistergos, calling for the immediate release of funding for the clinic, after the cancellation of the launch and opening.

He said the clinic 'would ... offer support for expectant mums from Nambucca, Bellingen, Dorrigo and Coffs Harbour as a free Medicare service'.

Mr Fraser said the Coffs Coast had high numbers of teenage pregnancies and a higher than average percentage of families on lower incomes.

"A lot of our mums are new to the area and may not have the support of their extended family," Mr Fraser said.

The community relations and media manager for the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS), Robin Osborne, said the NCAHS recognised the need for an ante-natal clinic to serve expectant mothers in the Coffs Harbour area, funding for the clinic was under consideration by NCAHS and the NSW Health Minister and he believed an announcement would be made 'soon'.

But he said an announcement had not been planned for February 14, nor was that an opening date, but if funding was approved, the clinic could commence within six weeks, when the staffing and equipment had been put in place.



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