ACT Health has moved to counter growing concerns about resourcing and staffing at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children by stating that it delivers safe and effective birthing services and that some of the issues raised are misleading.
The hospital has increasingly come under the spotlight in recent weeks after a series of issues were raised in an anonymous letter, with ACT Opposition Leader Alistair Coe saying these issues are not isolated events but systemic problems.
Young mother Camille Aniversario is among those with concerns about the hospital after a series of delays and problems led to fears for the life of one of the twin daughters she gave birth to in October last year.
Ms Aniversario, who ended up giving birth to one of her daughters naturally and one by emergency caesarean section, said she is concerned about the management of the hospital which she believes doesn’t have enough resources or staff.
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However, according to ACT Health, the hospital is a “safe and modern facility” and a patient experience discharge survey from the past year has shown that 93 per cent of mothers were satisfied with the service they received.
Executive Director of Women, Youth and Children at Canberra Hospital and Health Services, Elizabeth Chatham said that she wanted to set the record straight because “some claims regarding care at the Centenary Hospital have been misleading”.
“Although we acknowledge recruitment of midwives is an ongoing challenge, it is not true that we over rostered to create the illusion of appropriate staffing levels during our recent accreditation process,” Ms Chatham said.
“Rostering at Centenary has improved with the recruitment of 15 new staff as part of our graduate midwifery program, a 50 per cent increase from last year’s intake.”
Ms Chatham also said that she wanted to assure patients that staff are highly trained, they don’t use faulty equipment, and “that women and babies are not sent home until they are well”.
Opposition says Government is in denial about systemic problems
Mr Coe yesterday disputed the ACT Health statement, saying it was part of a Government smokescreen to try to deny the situation.
“When you have people denying the systemic problems that exist it gives me no confidence whatsoever that they’re actually able to fix this problem,” Mr Coe said.
“Given what we’ve seen in recent days – case after case of people that have suffered in the maternity ward, people that have been in labour for three-and-a-half days – it’s absolutely extraordinary and not something that you would expect to see in Australia.”
Mr Coe said that doctors, midwives and nurses are not getting the support they need.
“It goes to the competence of the Health Minister and the fact that they just do not seem to take this seriously and they seem to be in denial that there are systemic problems.”
Lack of staff impacts birth of twin girls
Ms Aniversario shares the circumstances surrounding the birth of her twin girls at the Centenary Hospital on her blog and has strong concerns about what happened.
She told The RiotACT that she was originally meant to be induced at 35 weeks but this was pushed back and she was scheduled to have an induction at 3 pm on October 3 last year.
Once in hospital, Ms Aniversario was then told there weren’t enough staff available for the induction to take place and so it was delayed until 8 am the next day, by which time one of the twins had moved into a transverse position.
She then made the decision to have a C-section but was told this couldn’t take place until the next day.
In the end, Ms Aniversario delivered one of her twin girls, Franki, naturally but the other, Gigi was delivered by emergency C-section and was “completely unresponsive and had to be sent to the neo-natal intensive unit”.
Ms Aniversario, who also describes a range of other concerns on her blog, said that she is still concerned about Gigi’s development and believes all the problems could have been avoided if she had been induced when originally planned.
The anonymous letter sent to ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris a few weeks ago is believed to have been written by senior nurses and midwives and claimed that Centenary was understaffed, under-resourced, women’s and babies’ health was being compromised and bullying was continuing to occur.
Ms Chatham said that the people who wrote the letter of concern are caring and want the best for the Canberra community.
“We are working with all of our staff to ensure that the concerns raised are taken on board.”
Ms Chatham said that in coming months, the ACT Government will announce a plan to update the way maternity services are delivered in the ACT.
“This new approach will be territory-wide, to better manage the demand between Calvary Public and Centenary hospitals, so both facilities share the delivery of maternity services,” she said.
“In the meantime, we want to encourage more women to choose Calvary, which is why the Government has invested $2.6 million in a refurbishment of the maternity ward.
“The updates at Calvary, expected to be completed in July, will make it a more modern and comfortable place to birth on the northside.”
Are you concerned about maternity services at the Centenary Hospital? If so, what do you think should be done? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.