Conflicting reports about condition of Tamworth Maternity Unit

Conflicting statements: Hunter New England Health claim the maternity ward is fully staffed, although the Nurses and Midwives Association say they are in the middle of a staffing crisis.
Conflicting statements: Hunter New England Health claim the maternity ward is fully staffed, although the Nurses and Midwives Association say they are in the middle of a staffing crisis.

The Tamworth hospital has failed to receive a single application for five midwife positions – deepening the concern around midwifery services in the area. 

Maternity services have been under fire since the Community Midwife Program was suspended indefinitely in February, with Hunter New England Health citing a lack of staff and safety concerns.

The Leader has been told that the delays in hiring are affecting the core service, which is  reportedly at breaking point.

Expectant mothers are unable to access even simple services, some are unable to book their first antenatal appointment until well into their second trimester, and some further along than that, The Leader has learned.

However, Hunter New England Health said that there were no staff shortages, and the five new roles would “future-proof the service”. This was despite previously confirming a staff shortage as the reason for closing the CMP.

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The hospital’s Executive Director Susan Heyman said that the maternity service is short 0.3 of a Full Time Equivalent position, which is less than 12 hours a week.

“Tamworth Hospital currently employs 32.39 FTE midwives and maternity staff. The most recent guideline from Birthrate Plus calculates 32.69 FTE as the ideal staffing target,” Mrs Heyman said. 

“Like other regional areas in NSW, finding appropriately skilled people to work in our area can be challenging. 

“We are in the process of setting up a Hospital Maternity Consumer Committee (that) will work together with the hospital to enhance and develop maternity services.”

Mrs Heyman said “at Tamworth Hospital the ward and delivery suite are linked and work together. This means at all times there is access to the Midwife in Charge.” 

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association organiser, Fiona Deegan, said that the unit has been so short-staffed “that recently the in-charge midwife was called away to the birthing unit, leaving only two registered nurses on the maternity ward”.

“This is a huge problem, it just shouldn’t happen,” Ms Deegan said. 

“I have had agency staff say to me that they don’t want to work in Tamworth because of how unsafe they feel it is. 

Ms Deegan said “there could be some concern amongst midwives looking for jobs” about applying to work in Tamworth.

Ms Deegan also confirmed that from September last year “there have been eight to ten more midwives leave the service.”