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13 March, 2022

Loss for mums as Cooktown suspends birthing services

RURAL doctors have called Cooktown Hospitals’ decision to temporarily suspend it’s birthing services a “step backwards” as a lack of qualified staff has forced the hospital to halt their services.

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Expectant mothers in Cooktown and the surrounding areas are being advised to relocate to Cairns to give birth as far as 36 weeks out from delivery. 

On 18 February, it was announced that birthing services at the hospital needed to be suspended while recruitment is undertaken to fill senior medical officer positions who have training in obstetrics and anaesthetics required to ensure a safe birth. 

Rural Doctors of Queensland president Dr Michael Reinke said the loss of a significant number of long-term key staff had resulted in the hospital’s inability to maintain safe birthing services. 

“At a time when we are striving to ensure long-term sustainable workforces in our rural communities, it is disappointing to hear reports that doctors are leaving Cooktown due to fatigue and burnout,” he said. 

“An increase in patient numbers has not been met by a sufficient increase in the workforce and the imposition of a poorly functioning medical record system has further increased the workload and clinical risk. 

“The doctors feel unsupported and have voted with their feet.” 

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service executive director of medical services Dr Marlow Coates said while mothers would need to relocate for births, they would be supported through the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme. 

Women who are pregnant have been advised to make the move around the 36-week mark to ensure a safe birthing place in case their babies come early. 

“All expectant mums are required to relocate to Cairns or elsewhere to give birth will receive support with transport and accommodation costs through the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme,” he said. 

“We hope to be able to restart the birthing service within 10 weeks or earlier if our recruitment of suitably qualified medical personnel is successful. 

“I would like to thank families in the Cooktown area for their understanding while we undertake this recruitment program.”

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