Tuesday, 7 February 2023


Maternal and child health services


Maternal and child health services

Richard RIORDAN (Polwarth) (19:31): (19) I rise this evening in my adjournment debate to ask the Minister for Health to come down to Geelong with me – I would happily host her in Geelong – to help explain to the Geelong community, the Surf Coast community, the Bellarine community and most importantly the Polwarth community why on earth the state government is allowing a 27 per cent reduction in maternity services in the Geelong region.

Sadly, the Geelong community and the Polwarth community learned in the last month that the Epworth private will be closing at the end of March. Normally we know that this government has no time for private enterprise; in fact we heard in question time today the government openly scorning private enterprise. However, the reality is the Epworth facility in Geelong is a not-for-profit service. It was built and constructed and purposely allocated the spot at Waurn Ponds near the university with both state and federal government support. It was identified as a way to help provide a broad range of health services to that growing area. In fact the area to the west and the south of Geelong is the fastest growing area in regional Australia.

The Epworth hospital currently does 600 to 700 births a year, growing at 20 per cent per annum. It has two brand new purpose-built obstetric services there, which for regional and country women is brilliant, because not only is it ideally located with the birthing suites but it is predominantly run by female obstetricians and gynaecologists. Those living in country Victoria know how important that is, because so many women throughout regional and rural Victoria do not have regular access to great female doctor services. These obstetric and gynaecological services were only signed up by Epworth HealthCare in the last six months. Multimillion-dollar clinics were invested in, built and put at that service for this very reason, and then, without any great warning or advance knowledge, they are now being closed and lost to the community.

I call on the minister and I call on the four Labor members in Geelong to stand up for their community and come down and tell the community what they are going to do about it. The state government is 100 per cent responsible for medical workforce planning. The excuse that there are not enough paediatricians in Geelong is no reason to close the four newest maternity services that are available to all women. As one of the gynaecologists and obstetricians from Corio – one of the tougher areas that really relies on public service – made clear in a public meeting, it will be the public patients who will pay the biggest price, because there will be even more pressure on the scarce public resources in health.