Originally written by WAYNE DREW
WESTERN District Health Service will be without medical obstetric coverage for 10 days over Christmas and New Year.
The lack of coverage – from December 27 to January 6 – is due to medical staff leave arrangements and the lengthy process in procuring a new overseas doctor.
WDHS chief executive, Jim Fletcher, said it was “extremely disappointing and regrettable” that the health service found itself in this position.
“I apologise to community members for any inconvenience caused,” he said.
“Unfortunately since the beginning of the year, we have had only two medical staff carrying the obstetric workload, following the long-term sick and subsequent retirement from obstetrics of our third practitioner.
“The Hamilton Medical Group and the hospital have been actively attempting to recruit a replacement during the year and while we successfully recruited and signed up a replacement in late July this year, the time taken to finalise personal affairs and get through all the immigration and registration processes has delayed his arrival until the end of January, 2006.”
Mr Fletcher said both Dr Cloete and Dr deKievit had done a “fantastic” job in keeping the service going seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
“However, Dr Cloete’s mother is ill and he needs to return overseas to visit her and Dr deKievit has family commitments during this period.”
Mr Fletcher said as soon as WDHS was aware of the situation two months ago, it had been attempting to find a locum to cover the Christmas-New Year period.
“Despite an exhaustive and extensive search and following up around 12 individuals and health services, the time of the year has made it impossible to obtain a temporary replacement,” he said.
“We will have midwife coverage over this short period, however in the interest of mother and baby safety, the health service will be writing to all expectant mothers around this time to discuss making alternative arrangements where possible with their treating obstetrician.”
Mr Fletcher said there were seven births expected during this period and another 11 one week either side.
“Any expectant mother with any concerns or requiring advice can contact our midwives at the hospital,” Mr Fletcher said.
“In the case of Caesarean sections, we will have surgeons available over this period to perform any Caesarean births.”
Mr Fletcher said in instances of emergencies other then Caesareans, any expectant mother who presented at the hospital would be individually assessed.
He said midwives, with consultant support from specialist obstetricians in Warrnambool, would determine the safest and best course of action to be taken in the presenting circumstances.