Geraldton hospital capable of meeting maternity demand, says Health Minister Roger Cook

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Health Minister Roger Cook
Camera IconHealth Minister Roger Cook Credit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian

Geraldton Health Campus has consistently met the increase in demand for its midwifery services in the four weeks since the city’s private hospital suspended maternity services, says Health Minister Roger Cook.

But Agricultural Region MLC Steve Martin said Mr Cook was “overly confident” of the public hospital’s capacity.

The regional hospital has been the only centre accepting expectant mothers locally since St John of God Geraldton Hospital temporarily closed its maternity ward last month.

In a statement the private hospital said the suspension was due to staffing shortages, with chief executive Phillip Balmer telling the Guardian some midwives chose to resign rather than abide by COVID vaccine mandates.

Health Minister Roger Cook acknowledged the transition of private patients to the public hospital had stretched resources, but said staff could manage the increase in demand.

“We know it is tough and everyone right across the service is doing their best in relation to those maternity services which aren’t now being delivered at St John of God, but I have been assured by the chief executive of the WA Country Health Service that we are meeting the demand,” he said.

“I thank all the midwives and everyone involved in the maternity services here in Geraldton for stepping up and making sure we can look after these women.”

Figures tabled in Parliament revealed all midwifery positions at the hospital were fully staffed, with some roles filled by agency and part-time workers.

Mr Martin said this reliance on the part-time workforce put the hospital on “shaky ground”.

“For the Geraldton hospital to be relying on agency and casual staff for much of their midwifery positions, I think that is a shaky position for the hospital to be in,” he said.

“The Health Minister I think is overly confident that Geraldton and the Mid West will be covered ... WACHS certainly have been anxious to recruit positions further north, so we aren’t blessed with lots of agency staff at the moment.”

Some Geraldton mothers have made arrangements to give birth in Perth, but Mr Martin said maternity services were also in high demand in the city.

“The Perth system is full and overflowing, so anyone coming down from the Mid West to give birth in the city would also be anxious,” he said.

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