The Western NSW Local Health District has announced it will be introducing a midwife-led birthing service at Parkes Hospital "by the end of 2020" while efforts continue to return medical obstetric services.
All birthing services have been offered at Forbes Hospital since the Parkes Maternity Unit was closed in June due to a shortage of obstetricians.
Acting Chief Executive Mark Spittal said on Tuesday that while the district continues to make every effort to recruit obstetric GPs and anaesthetists, a Midwifery Group Practice (MGP) is a safe and effective model for low-risk births where medical intervention is not anticipated or planned.
"Where appropriate, the MGP offers families a level of choice that hasn't previously been available in both Parkes and Forbes," Mr Spittal said.
"This will enable birthing to return to Parkes for mums not needing medical services such as an induction or caesarean."
Mr Spittal said the NSW Minister for Health has directed the Local Health District to continue to seek to establish a full-time roster of anaesthetic and obstetric services at both Parkes and Forbes, to complement the excellent care that will be provided by the development of a MGP.
"The available medical obstetric services will be focussed at Forbes to ensure there is stability and certainty as to where services are available," he said.
"When it comes to maternity services, local women and families have told us they want certainty and safety more than anything else."
Mr Spittal said that the WNSWLHD Board had carefully considered the responses from community consultation, along with research and information provided by staff and clinical experts.
"The one thing we can all agree on is that the services must be safe. Establishing the MGP will create a level of certainty for families as they approach the birth of their child," he said.
Mr Spittal said that plans for developing the new service were already underway.
"A project officer will work with various parties on a plan that brings the Parkes and Forbes maternity services together to offer a single, effective, safe service," he said.
"A staff specialist role will commence towards the end of this year to support both the planning and implementation work required to establish the new Lachlan maternity service."
Mr Spittal said that a number of critical factors needed to be put into place to support the MGP, including ensuring staff are fully trained and that processes are in place to assess women during pregnancy, and to cater for unexpected births or complications during birth.
"We are fully committed to this model but it will take time for all those requirements to be put in place," he said.
"Depending on progress to develop the workforce skills we need for the MGP, we expect the service will be operational by the end of 2020.
"Birthing will continue to occur at Forbes, with both towns continuing to offer pre and post-natal care."
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