A group of the most prominent South West doctors have pleaded with health authorities to stop allowing elective births at Margaret River Hospital. In a letter obtained by thewest.com.au and signed by nine local medicos, the group pleaded with the WA Country Health Service to close the hospital, flagging major safety concerns they believed were putting lives and reputations at risk. The doctors’ concerns were sparked by talk of hospital management relying on emergency department doctors instead of obstetricians, starting in November. It’s understood that locum GP obstetricians were filling the gap while WACHS undertook recruitment efforts amid what it called “a global shortage of healthcare workers”. But in their letter, doctors said experiences at Carnarvon and Katanning health sites showed maternity services were closed when obstetricians were unavailable. “We would, as a group, like to express our concern for the safety of women/foetuses/neonates in our community, as well as safety of our emergency department patients, and safe practice of medicine for our staff,” the letter said. Doctors praised the existing Midwifery Group Practice model for situations where smooth deliveries did not rely on an obstetrician as back-up. “Our concern is there is no physical back-up with obstetric knowledge/skills in Margaret River,” doctors said. “We feel for multiple reasons that it is unsafe to continue to offer elective intrapartum care in Margaret River once the GPOs are no longer on call.” A hospital spokesperson did not confirm obstetric services were ceasing in November. Instead, the spokesperson said recruitment continued but did not respond to specific concerns outlined in the GPs’ letter. “MGP models are midwifery-led,” the spokesperson said. “They do not necessarily require an obstetrician to be present. “ The midwife is the senior clinician leading the birth. If support is needed, the midwives consult with their medical colleagues.” The spokesperson said consultation included a 24/7 emergency telehealth service for midwives and obstetrics workers. “Currently, there are no changes proposed to the model in Margaret River. We are actively recruiting,” the spokesperson said. “Staff feedback is extremely important to us. We welcome and respect the insights of our medical staff.” While WACHS said midwifery was a specialist area that did “not routinely involve ED physicians attending births”, in their letter the doctors said they were also “unhappy … for our hands to be forced into a very risky, very litigative area of medicine that we do not choose to practice in”. They noted that any workload involving births also took doctors away from emergency patients. They also questioned the flow-on effect for supporting mothers if the GP obstetric service was not in full operation.