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Health hits back at media reporting of maternity claims

By Ian Bushnell 14 March 2019
building

Claims of a toxic environment at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.

Canberra Health Services has hit back at media reports of a toxic culture in Centenary Hospital for Women and Children, saying the claims are anonymous and unsubstantiated.

It said in a statement that the claims being made in submissions to the Legislative Assembly Inquiry into Maternity Services in the ACT were being presented as facts.

“The allegations are misleading and unfair and likely to lead to unnecessary concerns in the community about public maternity services in the Territory,” it said.

“Further, the unsubstantiated allegations are an unfair attack upon the dedicated and caring staff of CHS.”

The media reports include claims of vaginal examinations without consent, inductions being dangerously delayed, mothers being sent home due to lack of beds and a lack of midwives in the birthing suite.

One midwife said there was a toxic environment between obstetrics and midwifery that impacted on the care women received.

The statement said the claims were being aired before the Standing Committee on Health, Ageing and Community Services had begun to hear evidence. Public hearings are not scheduled to take place until the middle of the year.

CHS said there were avenues for staff to raise any concerns about clinical service delivery.

New CEO Bernadette McDonald had encouraged staff who have such concerns to contact her via email, make an appointment to see her or take up her standing invitation to join her for lunch in the staff cafeteria one day a week.

“We’re a team and we need to work together to make sure that CHS’s service is the best that it can be,” Ms McDonald said.

“I am incredibly proud of the great work our maternity staff do each day and am very disappointed that they are being subjected to publication of unsubstantiated claims about their professional practice.”

Ms McDonald said CHS was working to recruit more midwives and to retain those already working at the Centenary Hospital to address staffing issues that occur at times but there was a national shortage of midwives.

Canberra Liberals spokesperson for women Giulia Jones called on Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris to deal with the issues raised in the submissions.

“When the Government opened Centenary Hospital in 2012, it had no more capacity than the facility it replaced,” she said. “So it was never going to be able to cope with future demand. Add to that over-stretched staff and inadequate resources, and you’ve got a perfect storm of failure.”

She said the claims were symptoms of a system that was seriously flawed.

“The recent final report on workplace culture in the ACT’s health system is vindication, not only for the letter from a year ago [that prompted the committee inquiry], but also for the many women who have expressed serious concern about the problems in the Centenary Hospital,” Mrs Jones said.

But CHS said the feedback from patients was overwhelmingly positive and urged all patients, including those who have had a positive experience, to lodge a submission to the inquiry.

Submission to the inquiry can be emailed to: LACommitteeHACS@parliament.act.gov.au.

CHS also encouraged patients to contact its Consumer Feedback team on (02) 6207 7627 or via email at healthfeedback@act.gov.au.


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