Pregnant pause is almost finished
By BELINDA SCOTT
A FULL-CARE pregnancy management service should be operating at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus by the end of April.
The announcement follows complaints yesterday by the Coffs Coast Maternity Action Group that the North Coast Area Health Service had money for an antenatal clinic since December and had wasted almost half the six-month funding period without releasing any plans or appointing any staff.
The director of nursing and midwifery for the North Coast Area Health Service, Anne O'Donoghue, refuted the suggestion that NCAHS had not moved promptly to establish the service.
"In fact, the recruiting of midwives came at a difficult time because of the need to meet the extra demand following the closure of Baringa's private birthing service at the end of 2007," she said.
"So there was a requirement to employ extra midwives for Coffs Harbour Health Campus's maternity unit. In this regard, we have been successful and are now continuing to recruit midwives for the new antenatal clinic."
Ms O'Donoghue said the initial funding announcement in late 2007 did not contain specific details of how the clinic should be configured.
When this became clear, a comprehensive planning process was begun promptly in order to ensure the best service model.
"Establishing an antenatal service involves a range of set-up costs, such as purchasing new equipment. Contrary to the claim, funds have not been wasted but will be used for one-off costs, including the acquisition of the new equipment.
"Mothers-to-be will soon have free access to comprehensive pregnancy planning and management by specialised medical staff and midwives."
The new antenatal clinic is costed at $104,264 and will provide expecting mothers with an initial one-hour consultation, followed by subsequent half-hour visits through the term of their pregnancies.
The early assessment component is an essential safeguard for women who present with threats to their pregnancy or with early pregnancy problems.
"Initially, two midwives will be working four days a week, with an obstetrician on duty for one half-day per week. The staffing ratio will be reviewed in accordance with the demand for the service, which we anticipate will be fairly strong," Ms O'Donoghue said.
"Around 1000 births are recorded in the Coffs Coast area per year, and although many families access GPs or private obstetricians and midwives, there is a significant demand for public health services.
"We are confident that this new service will be of vital importance to the community."