A state government inquiry has heard there are few options for pregnant women in Warrnambool with drug or alcohol addiction.
The report from the Inquiry into Perinatal Services was released this week with the committee making 80 recommendations.
South West Coast MP Roma Britnell sat on the committee and said what was obvious throughout the inquiry was that over the years family structures and supports had changed. “So what we’ve found is that the support systems that were once provided by extended families or the village concept is no longer there and mothers and fathers with young children are struggling,” she said.
She said if the social, emotional and well-being needs of new families were met there would be greater benefits for society in the long term.
The inquiry looked at the healthcare and well-being of mothers and babies throughout the perinatal period and received submissions from healthcare professionals, the community and families.
At a public hearing in Warrnambool Doctor Liz Uren said there was difficulty getting appropriate support for pregnant women with substance abuse issues.
“That is just fairly difficult,” she said. “There is one drug and alcohol physician in the hospital, and his expertise with pregnancy is limited.”
Dr Uren noted that while the problem was not new, it was becoming more difficult to manage at times. “I think everyone has got the same problem everywhere, but we do not have the back-up services,” she said. “That is the reason why it is a bit more difficult here.”
The inquiry heard there could be pressure on South West Healthcare to take babies back to Warrnambool from the Paediatric Infant Perinatal Emergency Retrieval Service (PIPER).
“It becomes an issue when we have got babies with extra special needs… and that is where we get a little bit of pressure from Melbourne,” she said. “It does not happen all the time, it is pretty rare, but I suppose it is about just having that respect for the regional hospitals when they say they are at capacity and cannot do a transfer back.”