By Derek Schlennstedt
The Save Healesville Hospital Action Group has made a submission to the Family and Community Development Committee of Parliament about the situation in Healesville regarding the health, care and well-being of mothers and babies during the perinatal period.
The group took to Facebook to determine the zeitgeist for those living in the region, with many mothers voicing their concerns.
The most prevalent issue raised was a lack of facilities, with perinatal services only being located at Mansfield, Box Hill and Ferntree Gully- all over and hour’s drive from Healesville.
Jane Judd acting chairperson of the Save Healesville Hospital group said the post attracted an outpouring of interest from mothers.
“They either have to go to Mansfield, Box Hill or Ferntree Gully, and that is a very long way to go if you’re in labour,” Jane said.
“It was amazing how much interest there was from women; we got a reach of about 10,000 over the two posts and a few hundred responses, so we were able to incorporate their views of how it was like for them with access to limited maternity services.”
The submission aims to focus on three aspects including the availability, quality and safety of health services to women and their babies during the perinatal period, the disparity in outcomes between rural and regional and metropolitan locations; and identification of best practice.
Before 2012, Healesville Hospital offered maternity services, and many are keen to have these services return.
One of those people who would like to see the return of services to Healesville is Chum Creek resident Jessie Oliver, who experienced first-hand the trauma and stress of giving birth while driving to hospital.
While in the car to Ferntree Fully, she gave birth, an experience she wouldn’t wish upon anyone, and one which has not only traumatised her but also her mother and boyfriend who were in the car at the time.
“I was so scared that I wouldn’t make it and I didn’t, and now I’m terrified of having another child as I don’t want to ever experience a situation like that again,” Jessie said.
“We made it to the corner of Liverpool and Canterbury roads, at the Caltex, I asked mum to just check if the baby was there and propped myself in the front of the car and she just came out-my mum was freaking out and is still traumatised.”
Jessie’s story is just one of many from The Yarra Valley of women who have had to give birth on the side of the road.
Jane Judd hopes that the submission will result in maternity services becoming available in Healesville.
“We want to see more choices for women; we want low-risk births to be an option at Healesville,” she said.
“It’s much better for the family and local community to be as close to home as possible and not traumatised by the whole process of trying to get to the hospital before they give birth.”