Midwife Liz Perks with local mother Anna Davaris and son Harrison 

The Yass Outreach midwife service has gone full time following a review of local maternity services triggered by local mothers lobbying under the working group banner “New Yass Hospital with Maternity.”

Local Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Southern NSW Local Health District CEO Margaret Bennet all announced the 12-month trial upgrade on Friday. However, the upgrade in services hours has been in place since July.

“The extended hours means more support for young mothers and families in Yass and the surrounding region. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result – particularly for the smaller villages who have raised their concerns with me regarding this service,” Ms Tuckerman said.

“After raising these concerns with the Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, and organising a group of concerned constituents to meet with the Minister, the Minister asked the Department to complete a detailed investigation of midwifery service delivery as part of the Yass Maternity Clinical Services Plan,” Ms Tuckerman stated.

New Chief Executive for the Southern NSW Local Health District Margaret Bennett advised “With the new trial we now provide antenatal and postnatal care five days a week. These additional hours take into account the needs of women and families in surrounding communities and existing services, to ensure that women’s care can be provided in the right place, at the right time.”

Mrs Rebecca Duncan from the New Yass Hospital with Maternity working group is pleased the government has met their request for the position upgrade 

Local mother Bec Duncan from the New Yass Hospital with Maternity Working Group also responded positively to the upgrade but is concerned the government plan does not seek to restore local birth services for the next twenty years.

“We are pleased that NSW Health has agreed to our request to increase pre and postnatal services in Yass to a full-time midwife. This is a good win, and we hope it helps women and babies reduce the need to travel for care. We encourage families to use this service during the trial, or we will lose it.”

Ms Duncan is concerned under the changes women may be encouraged to birth at Goulburn, “Where maternity beds are decreasing from 10 to 5 in the new hospital. Because there are no local birth services in Yass, most Yass Valley mothers choose to birth at Calvary while Goulburn is even further away.”

Yass Outreach Midwife Liz Perks, said the increased hours have allowed for increased availability of antenatal care and a greater number of home visits to new mothers, offering more support.

“We conduct antenatal checks following relevant guidelines at Yass District Hospital and refer pregnant women to the most appropriate clinical care if required.”

Midwife Perks also advised she carries out postnatal visits in conjunction with birthing hospitals in Goulburn, Queanbeyan and the ACT.

“I go to homes and weigh the baby, take blood for jaundice levels, provide feeding advice, feeding assistance, and general postnatal checks of the mother and her baby for up to 10 days after birth,” Ms Perks said.

“It’s wonderful to provide this support and watch the women and their partners become more confident.”

Anna Davaris, who recently gave birth to son Harrison, praised the extra time provided to access the service in the Yass Valley. “I have found the service really beneficial. I definitely needed support along the way and to have follow-up from Liz after I had Harrison was very reassuring. It has definitely been much easier with the extended hours and much easier to make an appointment,” Mrs Davaris said.

The New Yass Hospital with Maternity working group secured wide-spread support, delivering a petition of more than 2000 signatures to state parliament through former member Pru Goward in August 2018.

Neridah Panton, Sanae Carey, baby Calvin and Derry Carey after Sanae’s precipitous birth experience last year in Yass.

Maternity for Yass was also a significant local issue in 2019 and 2020 for both state and federal state elections and the recent federal by-election with Labor committing to a 4.7-million-dollar restoration of local birthing services however neither level of Labor formed government.

The coalition state government continues to declare that option “unsafe”.

Minister Hazzard stating the health department review also determined that a return of comprehensive maternity or low-risk birthing services at Yass District Hospital is not feasible, sustainable, viable or safe.

Significant investment in infrastructure and workforce would be required to support the service, which is not justified by the current data, projected growth statistics, and the preference indicated by Yass women for services provided in the ACT.

In 2018 there were 187 births recorded for Yass Valley according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics yet the reviewed Maternity Plan for Yass Valley is only estimating 112-179 births in 2036. The plan relies on the Department of Planning and Environment population projections which forecast Yass Valley to only reach 17,100 by 2041 (DPE, 2019).

“NSW Health is using farcical statistics that suggest we will have fewer births in 2036 than we do now. They seem blind to our growing population,” Ms Duncan said.

In direct contrast, Yass Valley Council’s planning statistics predicts Yass Valley will have 18,086 residents by 2021, exceeding the DPE figure twenty years ahead of the state government’s modelling.

The Council’s demography work also has the population reaching 27,315 by 2036 with Parents & Homebuilders (35-49) remaining in the top two demographics for at least the two decades.

The state government advises the $8 million redevelopment of Yass District Hospital is almost complete. The primary outcomes of which are the construction of a new emergency department with a dedicated ambulance entry point and an additional treatment bay, an increase in patient beds (10 to 12), and improved facilities for the delivery of outpatient services.