A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry has heard South West Healthcare (SWH) had a 40 per cent increase in labour inductions in the past financial year.
The public hearing by the Family and Community Development Committee sat in Warrnambool on Wednesday and is examining the health, care and well being of mothers and babies in Victoria during the perinatal period.
SWH director of nursing Julianne Clift said in the past financial year there were 653 births and so far this financial year there had been 218 births.
She said of those births in the 2016/17 financial year 34 per cent of mothers were aged 31-35, 18 per cent were over 35 and about three per cent aged 18-24.
Ms Clift said inductions of labour were up 44 per cent due to environmental changes including an increase in gestational diabetes along with lifestyle and diet changes.
She said inductions also occurred when there were foetal growth restrictions and when pregnancies progressed more than 41 weeks.
She said due to some failings in obstetric care at Bacchus Marsh Hospital, risk management was a significant factor and mothers and babies were carefully monitored.
Ms Clift told the committee that staff on the maternity ward often faced the difficulty of DHS referrals for newborn babies and it was a challenging experience for staff.
She said the majority of nursing and midwifery staff at SWH came from Deakin University and were well respected across the state. She said if the campus closed the hospital would lose the continuity and the supply of nurses.
The committee, which included south west coast MP Roma Britnell, Western Metropolitan MPs Bernie Finn and Rachel Carling-Jenkins and committee chair and Frankston MP Paul Edbrooke, will consider the adequacy of services for dealing with high risk and premature births.
It will also examine the disparity in outcomes between rural, regional and metropolitan locations. The inquiry also has a focus on the mental health of women in the perinatal period.
The committee also heard from SWH primary mental health team manager Nicholas Place on the hospital’s perinatal emotional health program.
He said the program had averaged more than 120 referrals a year and was staffed by one effective full time position. He said ideally the program would be staffed by at least two effective full time positions to meet the demand.