Editorial October 11 2017

The Illawarra Mercury front page on Monday, October 10, carried the headline “Hard Labour”.

The story surrounded claims by mothers that Wollongong Hospital’s birthing suites were not up to scratch.

Parents were claiming the facilities were dirty, lacking basic items and chronically understaffed. 

President of patient advocacy group Better Births Illawarra Giselle Coromandel (pictured) said, despite management working with the group on improvements, the maternity ward remained “disgraceful".

‘’We’re hearing horror stories; one woman told me that when she was admitted to the birthing suite recently, her room hadn’t been cleaned from the previous birth and there was blood all over the ensuite,’’ Ms Coromandel said.

‘’Lack of midwives is also an issue before, during and after birth. New mothers are not getting the breastfeeding support and other specialist care that is so vital.’’

It appears many mothers of the Illawarra agree. At last count the story when posted on our Facebook page had 500 comments.

Many of them agreeing with the sentiment of the story and many sharing their own experiences.

Many praised the staff but recognised the situation of understaffing as confirmed in the story by confirmed by Wollongong Hospital clinical midwifery educator Denis Wann. 

‘’We’ve been concerned about staffing levels for a number of years,’’ Mr Wann said.

As one online commentator pointed out: “They are understaffed but they are still brilliant though. All the midwives were trying so hard for the birth of my 3rd bubs had my other 2 a Nepean hospital. I seriously couldn't fault them. Not fair to them then working through their breaks they don't get paid and having to do double shifts too. This is work place safety issue and I don't understand why the hospital isn't doing more and the government to find more midwives. Are they waiting until a midwife makes a mistake or accident occurs for them increase staffing levels.”

Renowned birth environment expert Dr Athena Hammond will conduct a “consumer audit” of the maternity unit this week. 

It will be interesting to see what the results of that investigation contains. The local health district has stated  it is working to address recruitment challenges with the maternity services as well as undertaking a review and redesign of services.