MATERNITY SERVICES: Chinchilla Hospital is still on bypass, with no end in sight.
MATERNITY SERVICES: Chinchilla Hospital is still on bypass, with no end in sight. Brooke Duncan

Chinchilla mums can't expect service

A DESPERATE search to bring midwives to Chinchilla has failed to deliver the promise of reopening Chinchilla Hospital maternity services.

A maternity ward crisis continues to plague Western Downs communities, as it was revealed Dalby Hospital was recently on the brink of going on bypass while six rounds of recruitment over several months has failed to bring midwives to Chinchilla.

The news comes as Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service CEO Dr Peter Gillies was questioned at a parliamentary estimates committee on July 25.

At the time Dr Gillies said DDHHS still don't have a date to reopen the maternity service, citing ongoing recruitment issues.

"We have had six rounds of recruitment,” Dr Gillies said.

"We have advertised on social media, in newspapers and with recruitment agencies - we have really tried everywhere.

"We desperately hope to get some midwives.”

At the committee, Dr Gillies said DDHHS had successfully recruited two of the four midwives required to start up a 'collaborative model of care' at Chinchilla.

There had been a third, but a change of circumstances meant one was no longer able to commit to the position.

Dr Gillies said both DDHHS and the Chinchilla community were clear they didn't want to push to reopen the services only to see them close again within the space of a few months, as happened last December.

"We want to ensure that the service is sustainable before we reopen it,” he said.

"It comes back to not being prepared to open the service unless we are sure it is safe.”

The ongoing troubles at Chinchilla also brought Dalby Hospital into the spotlight, which Dr Gillies confirmed came close to going on bypass on the weekend of June 8-9.

"I am concerned about Dalby medical staffing,” he told the committee.

Dr Gillies cited increasing challenges in the GP obstetrician market as a contributing factor, including what he called a "generational change” amongst doctors, with the older generation used to working long hours and "lots of on-call”.

"Understandably, the new generation does not want to do that,” he said.

"As we get that generational change, we have some challenges to make sure that we can keep recruiting.

"Dalby is a key hub hospital of ours and it is an absolute priority to keep birthing going. That is absolutely the commitment to maintain that service.”

Warrego Ann Leahy MP took aim at the Queensland Government for letting the situation worsen at Western Downs maternity wards.

"The Palaszczuk Labor Government should come clean with the people of Dalby as to how many other times have there been gaps in the maternity services at Dalby,” Ms Leahy said.

"Dalby is a major regional hospital - it cannot go on bypass and should not be 'close' to doing so.

"I will fight tooth and nail for the community when it comes to the continuation of maternity services in the Dalby and Chinchilla hospitals.”

DDHHS confirmed another round of recruitment for Chinchilla midwives is currently under way with a "strong pool of applicants”.

"It can be challenging to recruit clinical staff to rural facilities and we have been very honest with the community about making sure we choose the right person for the job,” Dr Gillies said.

In the meantime, he said Dalby Hospital is "safely able to provide full care to expecting mums from antenatal through to birth, and postnatal care, including mums from Chinchilla and surrounding areas”.

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