Protest rallies at Parkes and Forbes Hospitals to restore maternity services

Forbes stood beside their hospital staff on Thursday at a rally outside Forbes hospital, organised by the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association.
Forbes stood beside their hospital staff on Thursday at a rally outside Forbes hospital, organised by the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association.

Tomorrow the Parkes community will stand united with hospital staff as they rally together at 12.30pm in protest of the temporary closure of Parkes Maternity Unit.

The closure forces Parkes women to travel to Forbes to deliver their babies.

A public rally was held outside Forbes Hospital on Thursday out of concerns for loss of services.

Members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) put out the call to the community after the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) released a statement last week announcing the closure of the unit, citing a shortage of obstetricians as the reason.

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Chief Executive of Western NSW Local Health District Scott McLachlan told the Champion Post on Thursday that the decision to pause maternity services comes with a commitment to try and reopen a maternity service to deliver babies in Parkes in the future.

"The decision has been a really disappointing one for mums, the whole of the community and for us," Mr McLachlan said.

"Across Australia there are shortages in both rural GP proceduralists and midwives who deliver babies.

"We've struggled for a number of years now to maintain the service with the right number of doctors and midwives and that's not something that is going to go away anytime soon.

"If we were going to try and stand up services at both Parkes and Forbes with obstetricians and anaesthetists we would need around another seven to 10 doctors to come into town and we know that is not sustainable or even possible in the short term."

Mr McLachlan said the state government has a range of incentives to try and entice doctors to rural regions including training pathways but a potential solution is three to five years away.

"Through until then we will keep on bringing in locums which isn't a good solution we know, but we are not going to be able to recruit in a workforce immediately to restart the services we have previously had," he said.

Mr McLachlan said the health service will take the time out in the next couple of months to try and figure out what is going to work for pregnant mums.

"We are talking with our midwives, our doctors and other staff about what needs to happen to make reopening a maternity service in Parkes a reality," he said.

"We are starting to talk to the Health Council, a group of pregnant mums and mums that have recently delivered to understand how to organise a service that they are comfortable with."

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