Tuesday, 21 June 2022


Regional perinatal services

Regional perinatal services

Ms BRITNELL (South-West Coast) (19:08): (6430) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health, and the action I seek is for the minister to outline what recommendations from the inquiry into perinatal services the Victorian government has implemented. I was part of the Family and Community Development Committee, which conducted the perinatal inquiry, with the final report tabled in Parliament in 2018. It goes without saying that the final report was tabled almost two years before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but I will speak to that later.

The committee heard evidence from a range of stakeholders. There were more than 100 submissions, and we heard evidence from more than 90 witnesses at the public hearings. The final report made 80 recommendations. What the inquiry found was there was already a shortage of midwives and nurses in Victoria. This was 2018, again, almost two years before COVID. The executive summary of the final report reads in part:

The perinatal workforce in Victoria is facing major challenges. This includes a shortage of midwives and nurses which needs to be immediately addressed. The Committee sees a strong midwifery workforce as essential to ensuring good perinatal health for mothers, babies, and families. The Committee is also concerned by evidence of the shortage of perinatal health practitioners across a range of professions in rural and regional Victoria. The Committee makes recommendations aimed at growing a sustainable midwifery, nursing, and rural and regional workforce.

Birthing services were suspended at Portland District Health in March. The Portland community was told the loss of services would be for three months, but it has now been extended until at least September. According to the statements by the minister the suspension was a temporary hiccup. He hoped it would be over as soon as possible. The minister has said several times that a worldwide shortage of midwives, or a global shortage of midwives, was to blame for the service’s shutdown.

The loss of the service has had a huge impact on expectant mums and their families in the Portland region. They now have to travel more than an hour to deliver in either Hamilton or Warrnambool. I have even spoken to one constituent who moved to Ballarat prior to giving birth just so she had the surety of access to birthing services that she needed. We have also had one mum give birth on the side of the road between Portland and Warrnambool.

It begs a very obvious question: in light of the findings of the inquiry into perinatal services in 2018, what workforce planning steps did the Victorian government take to alleviate what was already a shortage of midwives in our state? Did the government accept and adopt the recommendations of growing a sustainable midwifery, nursing and rural and regional workforce? Because if the government had adopted those recommendations and started implementing them back in 2018, when the final report was tabled, we might not be in the position we find ourselves in today. So I ask the Minister for Health to outline exactly what recommendations have been adopted and implemented.