Pregnant women at risk: rural doctors

A HIGH-level meeting held recently in Canberra has addressed the need for more rural birthing services across Australia.

The meeting considered issues and strategies from the successful Rural Doctors’ Association of Australia (RDAA) and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine symposium, “Birth-ing services in small rural hospitals – sustaining rural and remote communities”, held in Alice Springs in March.

“Many pregnant rural women are being forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to give birth in distant centres because the birthing unit at their local hospital has been closed,” RDAA president Dr Sue Page said.

“There are others who are not making it to these centres in time, for example, earlier this year a young woman from Nyngan had to give birth outside a pub because she was only one-third of the way into a 163km-journey to Dubbo (the only designated hospital for births in western NSW) when her baby began to arrive.”

Dr Page believes this situation is threatening the safety of women and their babies, and said there would be an outcry if city women had to put up with these conditions.

The meeting considered measures to keep birthing units open, more support for rural health professionals and a revisiting of government funding and policy frameworks.

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