BABY BOWEN: Emily and Anthony Hart with newly-born Darcy Hart. Emily has welcomed the announcement of a new rural maternity planning tool which may bring birthing services back to Bowen.
BABY BOWEN: Emily and Anthony Hart with newly-born Darcy Hart. Emily has welcomed the announcement of a new rural maternity planning tool which may bring birthing services back to Bowen.

BABY JOY: Pilot program could bring birthing back to Bowen

EXPECTANT mothers can rejoice as Bowen becomes one of four Queensland locations to be included in a state health birthing review aimed at determining the needs of local women.

Health Minister Steven Miles, who has pledged the Palaszczuk Government’s commitment to maintaining and improving regional and rural ­maternity services, said Bowen would be the latest pilot location for a new maternity planning tool to meet the needs of local women.

The planning tool, developed by the Rural Maternity Taskforce, will be piloted at three other sites across Queensland, at Theodore, Weipa and Cloncurry.

“This decision-making tool is designed to help health executives and clinicians determine what maternity services are needed for the communities they serve,” Mr Miles said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Health Minister Dr Steven Miles MP AAP Image/Richard Gosling
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Health Minister Dr Steven Miles MP AAP Image/Richard Gosling

“This process has two key steps – to review and assess current services and to design or redesign the service to better meet the needs of local women.

Mr Miles did warn the planning tool didn’t herald the immediate return of birthing services to Bowen.

“Safety must be the first priority, so a thorough assessment of what’s possible is essential before an HHS can commit to upgrading a maternity service,” he said.

“Ultimately, any birthing service needs to be feasible, sustainable and, most importantly, safe for local women before it is introduced. That’s the purpose of this planning tool.”

Mackay Hospital and Health Service, which covers Bowen, has started planning to use this the Rural and Remote Maternity Planning Framework, with consultation to start in March.

Mackay HHS chief executive Jo Whitehead welcomed the inclusion of Bowen as a pilot site for the framework.

Bowen Hospital Maternity Services. Bowen Hospital. Photo: Daryl Wright
Bowen Hospital Maternity Services. Bowen Hospital. Photo: Daryl Wright

“Our Bowen community has enquired about the provision of maternity services within the region,” Ms Whitehead said.

“While we already provide world-class maternity services in the Mackay and Whitsunday regions, this is an excellent opportunity to investigate the health care we currently provide to women in Bowen so we can explore what is needed in the future.”

Bowen Chamber of Commerce chairman Bruce Hedditch said he was ‘delighted’ the Queensland Government had ‘seen the merit in maternity services returning’.

The Bowen Chamber of Commerce has been pushing for maternity services as part of its three-prong approach to improving health services in Bowen, which included a CT scanner and dialysis services.

Bowen Chamber of Commerce Chairman Bruce Hedditch has welcomed the announcement of a maternity planning tool for Bowen Hospital. Photo: Cameron Laird
Bowen Chamber of Commerce Chairman Bruce Hedditch has welcomed the announcement of a maternity planning tool for Bowen Hospital. Photo: Cameron Laird

“We should never have lost in the first place, this is a great step towards not having women rushed to Proserpine or Mackay,” he said.

“There’s three things that I have learnt women want when they’re looking for somewhere to place their roots – good education, good services and good health.”

Bowen resident Emily Hart welcomed her first child, a little boy called Darcy, six weeks ago and said having more services would provide expectant mothers with ‘peace of mind’.

“There’s always the fear among mothers they may not make it, even to Proserpine,” she said.

“It’d be amazing to not be worried about travelling, and have more services in Bowen.”

Mrs Hart said she hoped the planning tool would encourage even more maternity services in Bowen, such as an obstetrician and more pre-natal classes.

“It will be such an asset for Bowen to have if everything looks good.”