GREAT RESULT: Brian Hanna says Friends of Theodore Maternity group has had a big win that will benefit rural mums across Queensland.
GREAT RESULT: Brian Hanna says Friends of Theodore Maternity group has had a big win that will benefit rural mums across Queensland. Contributed

Win for vocal group

THE Friends of Theodore Maternity group is "really pleased” with the findings of the State Government's Rural Maternity Taskforce Report - presented at last week's Queensland Maternity Summit held in Cairns - and members are looking forward to being consulted as part of new maternity frameworks in Central Queensland.

Group representative Brian Hanna said Health Minister Steven Miles had adopted all six recommendations made in the report.

"I think it's pretty phenomenal,” Mr Hanna said this week.

"The biggest thing for us is that the chief executive of the Hospital and Health Service (HHS) can no longer lower or withdraw maternity care - they have to go through the Health Minister.

"Despite what we were saying, we weren't being heard and that was patronising.

"There was no voice for rural consumers to say how rural maternity care should look.”

The Save Theodore Maternity Services group was formed last year after Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service's decision to withdraw birthing services from Theodore Hospital.

The group has been petitioning government, the board and the hospital executive to overturn their decision.

"We've had to be very vocal to get these changes but, in doing so, it's benefited the whole of Queensland,” Mr Hanna said.

He said the health system had been developing frameworks for maternity care but without any consultation with rural communities.

"Consumers have to be on the panel to design rural maternity care.

"In theory, they said that in Theodore we could do ante and post natal care and then go to Biloela to give birth, but most women won't because that would mean travelling during labour, to a town where they don't know anyone, and then travelling back after birth.”

Theodore Hospital's maternity services were downgraded from Level 2 to Level 1 - which meant an end to planned low-risk birthing in the town - after the 2011 floods damaged the building.

Despite protests by residents services remained at Level 1.

Mr Hanna said more than 40 maternity units had closed in the state over the last few decades and there was no working party to represent rural and isolated health.

"When Theodore closed down we made a pact that this wouldn't happen again.”

He said the group's next step was to "move forward” with CQ Health.

"Theodore has enough midwives, with six in town, so the biggest thing will be allowing them to go away to gain recency of practice in the birth suite,” he said.

"And this is now to be introduced as part of the funding that's been announced, so it shouldn't be an issue.''

He said the aim would be to work towards "full spectrum” maternity care and the continuity of midwifery-led care for low-risk women at Theodore Hospital.

Mr Miles has confirmed the recommendations to be enforced would include no more changes to rural maternity services without the Minister's approval; health services to strengthen rural maternity offering where it's safe to do so; and a new framework to consider the needs of mums.

He said a new fund of $500,000 to allow bush midwives and doctors to rotate through bigger hospitals to keep their skills current would be established to entice and keep more clinicians in bush hospitals.

"I think the need for ministerial approval will ensure health services do everything they can to keep vital rural and remote health services open,” Mr Miles said.