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    Media Statements

    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services
    The Honourable Steven Miles

    Rural maternity services in Queensland

    Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services
    The Honourable Steven Miles

    Sunday, August 12, 2018

    Rural maternity services in Queensland

    Queensland Health will convene a special summit of experts to assess the provision of maternity services in rural and remote parts of the state.

    Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services Steven Miles said he wanted to reassure Queenslanders that birthing in the state is safe and getting safer.

    "Queensland is one of the safest places in Australia, and Australia is one of the safest places in the word, to give birth," Mr Miles said.

    "But the death of even one mother or baby in childbirth is a tragedy and we continue to look at ways to improve.

    "I've asked the Department of Health to establish a summit, including re-convening an expert panel formed in 2014 to look at these issues.

    "The decision on how to provide the best and safest maternity services for Queensland families is rightly made by local Hospital and Health Services.

    "Doctors and medical practitioners are the right people to make these decisions based on patient safety.

    "It is irresponsible of the LNP to say they will override the advice of doctors and in doing so risk the lives of Queensland babies and mothers. The safety of expectant mums and newborns should not be put at risk for political purposes.

    "The LNP promised to open 12 maternity services in regional and rural areas but when they were in government they only managed to open two because it wasn't clinically safe to open more and put expectant mums and newborns at risk."

    Queensland Health Deputy Director General Dr John Wakefield said the Health Department always put safety first.

    "We think every woman deserves every chance to have her baby safely - and our focus on safe birthing works.

    "We understand everyone would like every facility or service right there in their own community but safe, specialist birthing services need specialist facilities and enough births to support accredited teams of clinicians.  

    "This decision is never made lightly and involves careful and honest consideration of the risks and consequences by health services and their communities. Each situation is unique.

    "More than 60,000 babies are born in Queensland each year and expectant mums can have every confidence in the safety and quality of our public and private maternity care."

    Queensland Health takes a range of factors into account when assessing the ongoing viability of services. Clinicians need to be undertaking sufficient levels of activity in a specialist clinical area to ensure the quality of the service.

    There also needs to be a sufficient number of clinicians to ensure a viable service model that includes on-call, access to a skilled extended clinical support team and access to intensive care or other more specialised services should things go wrong.

    Mr Miles said the panel would consider safety, staffing and models of care as part of its considerations.

    ENDS

    Background

    Of the 62,779 babies born in Queensland in 2016, 0.8% percent were born before arrival at a hospital. In 2017, 60,298 babies were born in Queensland, with 0.8% percent born before arrival at a hospital.  

    In the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare publication, Maternal Deaths in Australia, Queensland's maternal mortality ratio of 5.9 per 100,000 women who gave birth is lower than Australia's of 6.8. Likewise, Queensland's perinatal mortality rate of 9.6 per 1,000 deaths is lower than Australia's rate of 9.7 per 1,000 women as published in AIHW's Perinatal Deaths in Australia.   

    Media contact: Katharine Wright 0428 957 903