Passion, prams and people power

PASSION, prams and people power packed out the Emerald Town Hall as Queensland Health officials were left in no doubt about how precious a new life born locally truly is to residents.

But the reality is there are no appropriately skilled doctors to cover maternity services from Monday, June 28, to Friday, July 9.

Two obstetricians are being ‘teed up at the moment’ for two weeks after that, according to Central Queensland Health Service District chief executive officer Dr Coralee Barker, but as yet, no anaesthetist.

Dr Barker was adamant: “We are not

closing Emerald birthing services.”

Mothers Mellissa Chick and Larissa Burnett led the community forum.

“Today is not about laying blame or guilt – it’s about finding permanent solutions to an ongoing problem,” said Melissa.

“We need to stand together. Our town is growing into a small city… it seems heartless we now have traffic lights, but no facility to have a baby.

“I am personally appalled this has happened in our prosperous and growing town.”

To the cheers of those assembled, Larissa Burnett called for Emerald to rally together for a sustainable maternity service.

“… not just Band-Aided layer upon layer – we are not happy with having different locums every few days or weeks telling us different things,” she said.

“Continuity and consistency is what is needed.

“… I would also like to see our hospital stand alone as our own separate health hub, not under Rockhampton.

“We don’t want to feel like second-rate Queenslanders any more.

“It’s a different story if our town is dying – but it’s quite the opposite.

“We need and demand more and better services.”

Larissa’s calls for the hospital to be stocked with a full-time obstetrician, anaesthetist and paediatrician were tempered by the response from QH director of medical services, Dr Philip Montgomery.

“I kid you not. That means you need three obstetricians, you need three anaesthetists and you need three paediatricians because no-one will work 24/7,” he said.

“You need three of everything to make it sustainable, otherwise the one you get won’t stay.”

Currently, QH is advertising the medical superintendent and four senior medical officer positions vacant at Emerald Hospital.

Mayor Peter Maguire pledged council support for the fight, while member for Gregory Vaughan Johnson promised to fast-track the issue.

“This is a serious issue and that serious that it’s become critical,” said Mr Johnson.

“We need a medical clinic here where we can house those practitioners, where we can address those issues of not only maternity but general medicine, and I’ve suggested to the mayor he and I should fast-track a visit to the Health Minister in relation to how serious this issue is.

“(And) I’ve always been an advocate that the flying obstetrician should be based in Emerald, not in Roma.”

Cr Maguire said Deputy Mayor Paul Bell met with Deputy Premier Paul Lucas at last Wednesday’s State of Origin match in Brisbane to press Emerald’s claims for a stable maternity service.

There were cheers for graduate medical students to serve a three-year term in the bush, and for Emerald to be used as a teaching hospital.

There were also tears shed by some mothers, and grandmothers, as they told of their fears at being parted from loved ones.

“I agree with everything said today, we need obstetric services in Emerald… there is no way you don’t need/deserve those services,” said Dr Barker.

“What we’re trying to work on… even before we pulled up here, is to find doctors to come up here.

“We really are trying everything.”

A Facebook page was set up on Wednesday – Save Emerald Birthing - and as of yesterday morning, it had 946 members; a number expected to swell exponentially in coming days.

Concerns raised at the meeting will be posted on the social networking site for comment.

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