The Illawarra health district has publicly apologised to women at a hearing about into birth trauma in the region, saying sorry to those who did not receive the care they expected.
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District chief Margot Mains issued the apology during the Wollongong public hearing of the NSW birth trauma inquiry.
She also said the district has written a letter to all pregnant women assuring them maternity services in the region are safe.
"The stories I have read in submissions and those that have been shared today, I personally find challenging and very difficult to hear," she said.
"They have a profound impact on me as a chief executive, but not only as a CEO, as a mum and about to be a grandmother in two weeks time.
"On behalf of the local health district, I sincerely apologise to any woman whose care did not meet their expectations.
"I acknowledge that we need to do absolutely everything we can to ensure that birth trauma does not occur in our hospitals and services."
Ms Mains thanked the women who have "bravely come forward to share very personal stories to help contribute to make improvements to our services".
She announced several ways the district was already working to improve the way women access maternity care in the region, acknowledging the widespread push for better access to the highly sought-after Midwifery Group Practice (MGP) program.
"We know midwifery continuity care models are shown to have improved outcomes for mothers and babies as well as highly positive experiences," she said.
"We know we need to do more to expand access to continuity of care models. We have been working on that and I acknowledge that this has taken longer than anticipated.
"I apologise for this.
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"No one comes to work with the intent to cause harm and I believe our staff share our goal of making a positive difference to women and families. However, there are areas that we need to improve and work has already begun."
Ms Mains announced a number of ways the district was working on changing maternity services.
She said 120 mothers at Shoalhaven Hospital would have access to the MGP model of care, hopefully by the end of the year, and that staff were working in crease the number of places available at Wollongong Hospital.
A debriefing clinic for women is also being reintroduced at Wollongong this year, following our recruitment of a new clinical midwifery consultant, she said.
"We are expanding breastfeeding support in our hospitals with the recruitment about to commence for a new role, based on the successful lactation model role at Shoalhaven Hospital," she said.
"Planning is underway for our next after-Cesarean Clinic at both Wollongong and Shoalhaven Hospitals to ensure that we are providing consistent advice to women.
"We've also implemented a range of new services and support for women with hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme sickness during pregnancy)."
Ms Mains said she wanted to assure women who were currently pregnant that the district was committed to providing "the very best care".
"We have sent out a letter to women throughout the district because, understandably when there's an inquiry on and there's been a lot of discussion and debate, it does erode the confidence further in services," she said.
"We do believe that we provide safe services and we look at our indicators constantly, we look at our neonatal outcomes as well.
"We do believe there are issues and would agree there are issues around the experience that women have, and there are some areas that we definitely need to work on and that's what we're working on, reviewing our policies to look at inductions and so on."
Do you have a story of birth trauma you'd like to share? Contact Mercury journalist Kate McIlwain firstname.lastname@example.org
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