Cohuna District Hospital

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria) (17:25:21) — My adjournment matter is also for the Minister for Health. The action I seek is for her to work closely with the administration of Cohuna District Hospital to assist them in the attraction of a locum general practitioner obstetrician to support births for the community. My colleague Mr Gepp and I are very concerned that the delivery of babies has been temporarily suspended in Cohuna, but there is slightly more to the story, obviously, than just a random suspension.

In September this year there were two general practitioner obstetricians in the town, but then one resigned and the town was left with one. It is not an ideal situation to have a maternity service supported by a doctor. In fact it is quite dangerous. It presents an unacceptable risk to mothers and babies and is not an OH&S compliant situation for the remaining obstetrician. Apart from fatigue issues, if there is more than one birth occurring at a time, there can be problems. If the doctor is unwell, of course, a birthing mother can be left in a very precarious situation or be rushed to a neighbouring hospital. Unexpected clinical complications are also a consideration. The health and safety of Victorians must always come first. It does not matter if it is in the workplace, in the home or during birth. Of course we would say that safety must be the priority.

The temporary measure proposed is to protect the safety of mothers and babies and to provide a safe workplace for the existing medical staff. Antenatal care will still be provided at Cohuna District Hospital, and tailored healthcare plans are being developed with individual women. The tailored healthcare plan includes where the birth will take place — as close as 45 minutes away in Echuca or the other option would be Swan Hill. In the interim, while the vacancy is being filled and for the safety of all mothers seeking to deliver their babies in Cohuna, we are asking the minister to work closely with Cohuna District Hospital to urgently find a temporary locum to help support the obstetrician that is there at the moment.