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ACT Health moves to counter growing concerns about maternity services

By Glynis Quinlan 5 May 2018 7

Camille Aniversario pictured after giving birth to twin daughters last October is among those with concerns about the Centenary Hospital. Photo: Supplied.

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.

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

Camille Aniversario with Gigi. Photo: Supplied.

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.

Anonymous letter
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.


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ACT Health moves to counter growing concerns about maternity services
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petunia petal 7:28 pm 07 May 18

people providing anecdotal accounts of positive or negative experiences really isn’t telling us much – the fact that health professionals who work there everyday see a problem and risk in patient safety means that there probably is an issue and we need to support them to get the remedies they seek.

Sharon Woods 5:13 am 07 May 18

I have had all of my (5) children there (over 22 years span) - every experience has been positive their care has always been exceptional, never an issue...

Dinora Collins 5:51 pm 06 May 18

I think it needs constant monitoring. I had a baby 2.5 years ago. Was turned away twice because (I was being induced) of overcapacity- which could have been communicated before coming but there wasn’t enough staff for that. I was in labour 12 hours. The doctors and midwife couldn’t agree on direction of treatment which added to the stress I had already undergone before being admitted. Felt alone, no support, no advocacy.

Alison Hughes 11:43 am 06 May 18

I had a baby at TCH two weeks ago and also found their pre and post care to be excellent. Baby and I had (and continue to have at home) access to support from fabulous staff, whenever we needed it. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend their maternity services to others.

Garfield 7:40 pm 05 May 18

The place is a shambles. In the last month I know 2 people who have been there and both experienced problems.

The first was a surgery where the patient was discharged without any examination of the wound, without any instructions on post op care, without any discussion on painkillers or other medication and without a discharge report.

The second was heavily pregnant with twins and presented at maternity upon checking her blood pressure and finding it in the extremely high range. That’s the range where anybody should seek immediate medical attention. Even with a single pregnancy she would have been high risk due to previous complications. She was not examined properly before being sent home. Presumably if she had a stroke at home she was supposed to somehow call the ambulance. She was back 3 days later for her scheduled caesarean, but was kept waiting more than 4 hours after the appointment time.

Lives are being put at risk through the overcrowding, under resourcing and poor management of the maternity ward. Those nurses absolutely did the right thing in writing the letter.

Jennifer Carter 5:01 pm 05 May 18

I gave birth at Canberra Hospital in March. Their care was excellent. I had 4 antenatal admissions and spent about 4 weeks in hospital in my 3rd trimester before being induced at 34 weeks. I spent time on the antenatal ward, and the birthing suite and my care was excellent. The doctors and midwives were fantastic. My baby spent a couple of weeks in the NICU and special care nursery and the service there was excellent too, albeit they were extremely busy (but this did not compromise care in my view). I was able to access doctors whenever I needed, and saw physios, speech pathologists, dietitians, lactation consultants and an ENT specialist during my stay. My only disappointment was that it was constantly held over us that my baby would be transferred to Calvary Hospital because apparently where I live is in the catchment for Calvary, despite it being an hour drive when Canberra Hospital is less than half an hour away. It did make the time my baby was in hospital considerably more stressful than it needed to be.

    Jennifer Carter 5:05 pm 05 May 18

    In addition, the ongoing support is amazing too. We left hospital under the NAPSS program (an early discharge program for at-home support for bub) and I’m also getting assistance through the QE2 Family Centre. The support is more than I ever expected and certainly more than is offered through the private health system.

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