Searching for options

LATROBE Regional Hospital will explore ways to save a maternity service which the State Government has withdrawn funding from.

The Australian Nursing Federation warned last week funding cuts to the midwifery education and support program would “further deplete” women’s access to maternity services in rural towns.

ANF (Victorian Branch) secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said a group of midwife consultants at rural health services, including LRH, had provided education and support to midwives and doctors as part of the Rural Maternity Support Program since 2010.

She said the program provided $500,000 annually to employ six midwife consultants across the services.

“The Department of Health has advised funding will stop in June and health services will have to find the money if they want to continue the program,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

According to Ms Fitzpatrick, the government said the health services could access funds from $5 million available through the Victorian Nursing Policy Branch, but the ANF had been advised “these funds have already been allocated”.

“In the lead-up to the 2010 state election Ted Baillieu criticised the Brumby Government for not improving rural women’s access to maternity care and now he’s getting rid of a program that has assisted them to have their babies and receive safe ante and post-natal care near their home,” she said.

“This program has linked midwives, general practitioners, obstetricians and health services and improved their understanding of each other’s needs and capabilities.

“The support and education has enabled clinicians to continue to practice with confidence which means maternity services in regional Victoria keep their staff and keep providing the service.”

She said she feared if the program stopped, midwives would, over time, drop their midwifery registration and rural women would have to travel further for ante and post-natal care, and to have their babies.

LRH chief executive Peter Craighead said the hospital was “exploring the options to maintain the services in Gippsland”.