Parkes Shire Mayor, Councillor Ken Keith OAM has expressed alarm and frustration over the decision to temporarily close Parkes Maternity.
In a statement made yesterday, Western NSW Local Health District said the decision is "an interim measure while discussions continue around how maternity services across the Lachlan Health Service can be designed so they are safe, sustainable and high quality for all families."
A shortage of medical practitioners and the costs associated with the provision of Locums have been cited as contributing factors.
Mayor Keith says it is exasperating that the situation has reached crisis point.
"This dilemma has long been foreseen, as our long serving proceduralist neared retirement and should have been proactively planned and managed by Western NSW Local Health District."
Cr Keith said that the community has done its part in attracting doctors through programs such as the GP Working Group and fundraising initiatives like the GP Cup which has invested over $100,000 in attracting doctors (including proceduralists) to Parkes. This has resulted in an increase in doctors' numbers and significantly reduced waiting times. Council has also invested in three units for registrar accommodation.
"Closing delivery suites, and ultimately reducing vital health services for the Parkes Shire community, should not be an option. This decision will reduce health outcomes for women. The choice of women living in regional areas to birth locally should not be compromised," the Mayor said.
"With the recent announcement of the Special Activation Precinct, construction of the Inland Rail and major developments like CleanTeQ Sunrise Mine and the expansion of Northparkes Mines, our region is currently experiencing unprecedented growth."
"This decision by Western NSW Health District seems to be contradictory to the growth that Parkes is experiencing and defies belief."
"We certainly feel confident in the ability of the amazing team of Parkes midwives. However, they should be supported by a suitably qualified doctor. The community needs to know what is going to happen after this two-month interim measure."
Council will be seeking a meeting with Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard MP to confirm his previous commitment to maintain service levels at both Parkes and Forbes hospitals.
The community can be reassured that Council will stand strong on this issue and that Council will not rest until the future of maternity services in Parkes is guaranteed.