Casino birthing services to be suspended

The following statement may be attributed to Mr Chris Crawford, Chief Executive, Northern NSW Local Health District:

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For the safety and wellbeing of future mothers and their babies, birthing services currently provided at Casino and District Memorial Hospital (CDMH) will be transferred to Lismore Base Hospital (LBH) from 1 August 2013.

The Maternity Service suspension is part of an initiative to ensure that all local families have ready access to the full range of sustainable, specialised obstetrics services, including midwifery and anaesthetics, as well as 24/7 midwifery support.

At present, under its classification as a Level 2 facility for maternity services, CDMH may assist in low-risk birthing only, does not undertake inductions, elective or emergency caesarean obstetrics, or anaesthesia (general or epidural).

As a result, all expecting mothers outside the low-risk criteria are assisted to deliver at LBH, only a 30-minute drive from Casino. Local GPs and the Aboriginal Medical Service also refer their patients to LBH. At present, around 326 women a year from Casino and surrounds birth at LBH.

In recent years the number of women birthing at Casino has decreased considerably, with only 46 births last year (2011-2012). One impact of the lower number of births is the reduced professional opportunity for midwives to work in a best-practice model of care, and maintain their skills.

The midwifery model of care, which operates at LBH, helps with the recruiting of midwives. CDMH has regularly experienced midwife shortages, with the birthing service now overseen by only one doctor, a Visiting Medical Officer who is a GP with advanced obstetrics training.

Despite various attempts at recruitment, it has not been possible to attract other Obstetrics-trained GPs or sufficient additional Midwives to work at CDMH.

Because birthing numbers at LBH have been trending downwards, this major referral hospital has extra capacity available to manage all the women currently birthing at CDMH. It also has a full range of high-level obstetrics services, including a full surgical capability, and well-developed midwifery and nursing teams.

To maintain the convenience of maternity-related care in Casino antenatal services will continue to be provided at CDMH. The decision to suspend the CDMH Maternity Service has been taken in order to ensure that all women from Casino and surrounds can access a sustainable, high quality maternity service into the future.

Anyone seeking further information or advice about their birthing arrangements is asked to ring Casino and District Memorial Hospital on (02) 6660 0642.

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