Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Seymour Hospital birthing unit closed

Lack of on-call obstetricians blamed.

CHALPAT SONTI March 20, 2014 9:43am

Seymour District Memorial Hospital has had to pull the plug on its birthing unit after the sudden resignation of one of two GP obstetricians left it unable to safely provide the service.

Tawhid Hassanien has resigned from Seymour Medical Clinic, and along with Bill Dwyer informing Seymour Health that he was unable to provide an after-hours on-call service, that left just Rob North to be almost continuously on call.

Seymour Health chief executive Chris McDonnell said that was an impossible position to be in and the service closed last week.

‘‘It’s obviously not safe for one person to work 24/7 and we had no choice but to cancel it,’’ he said.

‘‘In normal circumstances (during the day) we’d be fine but we have to have someone ready to immediately provide medical support at all times.

‘‘It’s a really disappointing time for everybody and we had really short notice and not enough time to get an alternative going, but our focus has been on contacting expectant mothers to make other arrangements.’’

That included working with Kilmore — which alternates weekend birthing with Seymour — and the Northern hospitals and the Health Department to make other arrangements.

A handful of women were due to give birth at Seymour this month with possibly about 20 in April. Ante-natal care and home visits by maternity staff are not affected, but what post-natal services are able to be continued will depend on the need for an obstetrician.

Just when the birthing service might resume in Seymour was unknown at this stage, Mr McDonnell said.

‘‘Ideally we’d love to have a medical community we can call on at our doorstep, but that’s not realistic,’’ he said.

‘‘As a minimum we need two GP obstetricians and two GP anaesthetists to provide a 24-hours-a-day service, and ideally we’d have three of each. It’s an issue across rural Victoria.’’

He said Seymour Health would now have to work out what it could do to see the return of the birthing service.

‘‘We have got to look at a whole range of options. It’s difficult to get doctors who will provide the obstetric and anesthetist service, and some options might take a little longer than others. We’ll look at what interim options we can put in. Lots of things are on the table and they need to be assessed.

‘‘It’s hard in such a short time frame to immediately work out what the options are.’’

Seymour Health chairman Terry Old said the board was committed to providing an appropriate range of safe health services for the community.

‘‘We will continue to identify options for service development which will build on our recent expansion of dental services, six-days-a-week dialysis services and the new cancer/dialysis unit which is scheduled to commence construction shortly,’’ he said.

The birthing service resumed at the hospital in February 2008, after a three-year absence.

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