Expecting North Queensland mothers are being forced to travel thousands of kilometres for a preferred birthing method.
Unable to access water immersion at outback hospitals, mums are expected to travel to Cairns, Townsville, Mareeba, Mackay or Brisbane to access the service despite a brand new maternity bath being located in Mount Isa.
North West Hospital and Health Service completed its maternity renovations in December, which saw the introduction of a big bath to use for labour pain relief.
Residents from Cloncurry, McKinlay, Carpentaria and Burke shires are encouraged to birth in Mount Isa but some, including Cloncurry mum, Stacey Robertson, say the water birthing service is still unavailable.
“I had the opportunity on the Sunshine Coast to use water bath and found it brilliant for pain relief and it made the process less stressful,” Ms Robertson said.
“But travelling so far for this service put strain on our family financially. My partner had to take time off work and drive me to the coast, as well as food and private expenses.
“I loved the water birth so much that I wanted to do it again with my second child but we weren’t in a position to travel again so we used Mount Isa hospital.
“Because the hospital executive hasn’t signed off on the maternity bath, I could not use it and they could only provide a shower.”
NWHHS Clinical Services Nursing and Midwifery executive director, Michelle Garner, said the water bath was not yet able to be used because of staff training, safety requirements, further lighting control and soundproofing of the room.
“A water immersion learning package has been developed and has just been rolled out to staff. Two trained staff members will need to be on shift for a woman to be allowed to use the pool for water immersion; safety is paramount,” she said.
“Women are currently able to have water immersion in labour, utilising the showers in each birth suite.
“The NWHHS hopes to have the bath in use at the time of the official opening of the Maternity Ward.”
That opening date is yet to be announced.
Ms Garner noted that the Maternity ward had only one enquiry from a woman in Mount Isa community wishing to use the pool.
“It will be an important asset to help women in labour, and we look forward to being able to offer it to our maternity patients in the future, once all the safety and training standards have been met,” she said.
Ms Robertson said there would be many more women from across North Queensland who would use the bath if they understood the benefits and considered it.