The federal rural health minister has weighed-in on maternity service issues impacting the Queensland town of Theodore.
Nationals deputy leader, Senator Bridget McKenzie, will address rural women’s birthing facility reductions in remote areas after meeting with concerned Theodore mothers in central Queensland on Thursday.
Senator McKenzie confirmed to Queensland Country Life she will raise the issue at next month’s meeting of state and federal government leaders, Council of Australian Governments, gathering.
The federal rural health minister also strongly urged those experts involved in Queensland Health’s newly formed rural maternity services task force, announced by state health minister Steven Miles three weeks ago, to get out and “meet people on the ground, talk to families affected” plus discuss the issue with health clinicians involved.
During a meeting with families in Theodore, Senator McKenzie was told first-hand of local concerns about Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service’s decision to reduce the town’s maternity facility to only imminentbirths. All other expecting mothers now travel to Biloela or most likely two and half hours away to Rockhampton.
Figures show between 1995 and 2005 almost 30 per cent of Queensland’s rural maternity units were closed with a total of 130 services shut down across Australia. At the same time, roadside births in regional and rural areas increased 47 per cent with women having to travel further to reach adequate hospital birthing services.
“I’m concerned at a philosophical and base level this is able to happen in a country that prides itself on world-class universal health care,” Senator McKenzie said.
“I will absolutely be taking these conversations forward into the many (rural health) forums I actually participate in.
“I’ve put rural health on the next COAG meeting’s agenda where I'll be discussing our $550 million investment into rural health workforce strategy.”
Senator McKenzie also added since coming to government, the Commonwealth contribution to hospital funding in Queensland had increased by 29 per cent, while Queensland’s state government investment has only lifted 8pc.
“The new hospital agreement, which Queensland is yet to sign on to, has hospital funding increasing by 34.8pc,” she said.
“This means there is another $7.5 billion extra for Queensland in the next five year agreement.”
Read more: Call for rural maternity rebirth
Senator McKenzie’s visit to Theodore coincides with national Women’s Health Week.