10 May 2023

Weipa mums welcome birthing services news

| Matt Nicholls
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WEIPA mums have thrown their support behind the decision to bring birthing services to the Weipa Hospital.

After reading it on the front page of last week’s Cape York Weekly, Hannah Hayman and Jess Smith gave the news the thumbs up.

“It’s going to be a huge help, particularly for mums who have already had a baby,” Ms Smith said on her morning stroll.

“For some it’s easier than others but it’s still a challenge.”

For all but a couple of years in the town’s history, expecting mothers in Weipa and Cape York have been flown to Cairns to give birth.

Mums are usually flown out four weeks before their due date and then stay a further two weeks in Cairns after giving birth.

Ms Hayman last year gave birth to son Owen in Brisbane because of family support in the south-east corner.

“It was easier than Cairns because we have family down there,” she said.

Ms Smith said it was expensive to have a baby at the best of times and that the added costs of accommodation, transport and food while being away from home was difficult.

Queensland Health covers a certain amount of accommodation expenses, but usually not enough for the whole trip.

“Most people are trying to save up for the baby and to be hit with six weeks of accommodation and being away from home is hard,” Ms Smith said.

“Even if you work for Rio Tinto and they help out with some of the costs, you still have to pay up front and get reimbursed, which can sometimes take a while.

“The last thing you want to do after having a baby is filling out paperwork.”

Both mums agreed that not having their partners with them for the whole time they were out pre-birth was difficult.

“Not everyone has the leave to just be out for four weeks,” Ms Hayman said.

“It’ll be much better for mums to be able to stay at home.”

Former Minister for Health Steven Miles announced last year that planning was under way for a birthing unit at Weipa.

“We’re currently investigating the feasibility of establishing a birthing facility in Weipa,” he said in May, 2019.

There have not been any birthing services in Weipa since the early 1990s.

“While there is excellent antenatal and post-natal care in the region, there is no actual birthing facility so pregnant women have to travel to Cairns to give birth,” Mr Miles said.

“It’s estimated that each year, a low-risk service in Weipa could be used by up to 70 mothers from Western Cape communities including Napranum, Mapoon and Aurukun.”

Cairns Hospital would remain the principal service for women with higher risk pregnancies.

When the Cape York Weekly went down to Pebbles Playgroup in Weipa last Tuesday, mums said they supported the introduction of maternity services.

However, they wanted more information about the systems that would be in place in case something went wrong.

Charissa Corbett said mothers would want assurances about the quality of care in Weipa.

“I’m worried that things can go wrong, even with low-risk pregnancies,” she said.

“We’ll have to wait and see all the details.”

Nicole Henry said it was tough for expecting mums to be without their partners for extended periods of time but was grateful to have family support in Cairns last time around.

She said for this reason she would consider going back to Cairns again, rather than giving birth in Weipa.

“But it’s good to have choices,” she said.

No time frame has been given on when the birthing suite will be operational.

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