Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Clinic responds to birthing unit closure

Some of the background to the Seymour hospital decision.

March 26, 2014 4:58am

Seymour Medical Clinic has responded to last week’s story in the Telegraph about the closure of the birthing unit at Seymour District Memorial Hospital:

The closure of birthing services brings disappointment, but it’s also time to reflect on the care provided to the Seymour community over many years.

The principal doctors of the Seymour Medical Clinic have more than 80 years of combined community service as medical practitioners.

For Bill Dwyer, Rob Peterson and Rob North the passion has always been rural medicine and while they all agree that the rewards are wonderful, they also agree that the challengers are great.

With the recent closure of the obstetric service at Seymour Hospital, they have been reflecting on the changing world of medicine and the impact on country general practice.

In years gone by it was common for many rural GPs to deliver babies and carry out anaesthetics in addition to the day-to-day care and emergency services.

Dr Peterson, a Seymour GP for more than 30 years, remembers sharing the Seymour on-call roster for many years with doctors Bob Russell, Jack Bryce, Colin Officer and Eliot Jarman.

With the passing of time and increasing expectation of specialised obstetric and anaesthetic qualifications the number of GPs registered to provide such services has diminshed.

Seymour Medical Clinic has worked tirelessly to recruit and support sufficient personnel to maintain the services, but with each passing year this has become more difficult.

For the past 12 months the service was lucky to have the participation of Dr Hassanien, to support Dr North and the team of experienced midwives.

Dr Dwyer provided anaesthetic support.

Dr Peterson, who is chairman of the Seymour Health Visiting Medical Officers, commended the efforts of Dr Dwyer and Dr North for maintaining the service as long as possible.

He noted that Dr Dwyer shared obstetric care until mid-2013 and provided obstetric anaesthetic service largely on his own for the past six years, which meant being on call almost every night.

Dr Peterson said this was a huge lifestyle sacrifice to make.

Dr North agreed with Seymour Health chief executive Chris McDonnell who stated the hospital needed at least two GP obstetricians and two anaesthetists along with a team of midwives to provide the 24/7 cover required.

‘‘These numbers have never been reached in the last six years since Seymour Health recommenced birthing services and the closure is not a surprise,’’ Dr North said.

‘‘There are a number of circumstances that have led to a lack of planning for sustainability and if the service opens again this needs to be a priority for all involved.’’

Seymour Medical Clinic practice manager Rosey Panelli said she was confident Seymour families would continue to get the safe, accessible care they need and women were well informed of transition services to Kilmore for birthing.

‘‘We have around 90 women on our pregnancy books,’’ she said.

‘‘Every single family has received a personal message explaining how their care will continue.

‘‘We also had a hotline at the clinic for women to call and get further information.

‘‘Some called because they did not realise we would continue to give antenatal care at the clinic, others were private patients and wanted reassurance that Dr North would be available to them at Kilmore.’’

While birthing services have ceased at Seymour Hospital, the clinic doctors continue to support and provide a general on-call service to the hospital and Urgent Care Centre.

Dr Dwyer is continuing to provide anaesthetic services at the hospital.

Dr North will also join the team at Kilmore Hospital to provide obstetric services.

He said it would be possible for local women to transfer back to Seymour Hospital post birth and this had already started to happen.

Doctors Dwyer, Peterson and North have seen many changes in medicine during the past 40 years.

Dr Peterson said ‘‘shifts in health care policy, funding and doctor training constantly forces general practices to assess and adapt service delivery’’.

‘‘However, I am fortunate to be working with a team of doctors in Seymour who have the compassion and enthusiasm to face the unpredictable nature of rural medical practice.

‘‘Quality patient care is always our primary goal and whilst we look back fondly to our early days of practice we are also looking forward to bringing the best that modern health care can provide to the Seymour community.’’

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