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Carnarvon accommodation shortages, high crime rates remain barriers to attracting midwifery staff

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
A motion condemning the State Government for failing to resolve staffing shortages which have forced some Gascoyne mothers to travel to Geraldton to give birth has been defeated in Parliament.
Camera IconA motion condemning the State Government for failing to resolve staffing shortages which have forced some Gascoyne mothers to travel to Geraldton to give birth has been defeated in Parliament. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

A motion condemning the State Government for failing to resolve staffing shortages which have forced some Gascoyne mothers to travel to Geraldton to give birth has been defeated in Parliament.

Shadow health minister Libby Mettam introduced the motion to the Lower House on Tuesday, saying midwives who have written to her have described the WA health system as “more dysfunctional” now than before the COVID pandemic.

“The feedback from that midwife and many others who are frightened of speaking up is that they are under extraordinary pressure,” she said.

“It is very concerning that this midwife stated that it is significantly more challenging than they have ever experienced, in comparison with other States.”

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Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the staffing pressures meant mothers in places like Carnarvon were required to travel to Geraldton to deliver their children, but she said the State Government covered 100 per cent of the costs involved in making this trip.

But North West Central MP Vince Catania said having a baby outside of their hometown was still taking a toll on residents’ finances and wellbeing.

“(The mother) will get covered for one room, with one bed, but when the family has other kids who need to come down and see their mother, that is not covered,” he said.

Mr Catania said high crime rates and limited accommodation were the biggest barriers to attracting and retaining nursing and midwifery staff in Carnarvon.

“I know the Government says that it is hard and it is offering money to attract staff, but if it offers incentives to staff, it will be easier to attract and retain nurses,” he said.

Ms Sanderson said the staffing pressures across the regional healthcare industry were not new and post-natal and prenatal care remains available in Carnarvon.

“There are four FTE midwives in Carnarvon. In order to provide a midwifery group practice 24 hours a day, we need a lot more midwives to fill that practice because women obviously give birth at all times in the night and day,” she said.

“We advertise vacancies consistently and constantly. There are very significant incentives for medical professionals, clinicians, midwives, nursing and GPs to work in the regions.”

The motion was defeated votes 41 to 4.

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