Insensitive Queensland Health initiative hurts traumatised women 

Published: 11 November 2021
 

An insensitive Queensland Health initiative is forcing women who have experienced stillbirth, miscarriage or termination to recover in the same Brisbane ward as new mothers and newborn babies.

Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) Secretary Beth Mohle said the colocation of new mothers, babies and those experiencing a loss or termination at the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital (RBWH) was unkind and incomprehensible.

Ms Mohle said the QNMU has written to Metro North Hospital and Health Service (MNHHS) officials five times outlining serious concerns around MNHHS’s decision to merge the RBWH Inpatient Gynaecology Unit (IGU) with the Maternity Unit.

She said the QNMU has also met with MNHHS officials twice on behalf of deeply concerned RBWH nurses and midwives who feared female patients requiring care would leave early due to psychological distress.

The QNMU is advised numerous women have left the RBWH IGU against medical advice and despite requiring ongoing treatment.  The QNMU is advised these early departures were due to psychological trauma associated with being allocated beds near mothers with healthy newborns.

“More than 900 nurses, midwives and outraged Queenslanders have filed their concerns with the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) regarding Metro North’s decision to place new mothers and babies with those experiencing a loss or termination, fertility/reproductive issues and surgery that is deeply private and intimate,” Ms Mohle said.

“This decision is incomprehensible - especially when there are currently uncommissioned beds available nearby that could be opened up for this purpose.

“The QNMU has repeatedly requested this decision be reversed in the interest of the emotional and physical wellbeing of women receiving care.

“These requests have been completely ignored. We call on all Queenslanders, including the many women and families who have tragically experienced loss, to support the QNMU’s online petition calling for immediate change.’’

The petition can be found at https://www.megaphone.org.au/p/RBWH

“The QNMU and our nurse and midwife members at the RBWH have identified alternative options which would allow women to receive care elsewhere,’’ Ms Mohle said.

“There are empty beds elsewhere within Metro North in an environment where women and their families could receive care out of earshot of crying babies and families celebrating the arrival of healthy newborns.

“Queensland nurses and midwives and vulnerable women receiving care are deeply disturbed by this Metro North Hospital and Health Service decision.’’

The initiative began in August as a temporary COVID-19 response. The QNMU wrote to MNHHS officials on August 9 to outline serious concerns and simple alternatives.

However, MNHHS officials this week decided to make the originally temporary colocation permanent, contrary to previous assurances given by the Health Service and against the advice of nurses, midwives, the QNMU and consumer groups.

Other maternity issues identified include:
  • Merging Maternity with Gynaecology has seen women giving birth forced to wait long periods of time, including overnight or longer for a maternity bed after giving birth
  • RBWH has a serious lack of beds and is on frequent code yellows. The QNMU has recommended a currently uncommissioned and therefore vacant ward be opened and dedicated to these vulnerable women. These beds lie within the Surgical, Treatment and Rehabilitation Service (STARS) which is a new specialist public health facility within the MNHHS Herston precinct
  • Gynaecology patients often end up in the maternity bays and not all midwives are nurses so are not qualified to look after these women
  • Midwifery beds being utilised for Gynaecology patients removes the ability for flexing up when there is a surge of births. Midwives are very concerned about the approaching border opening as RBWH is the main COVID hospital for the state with maternity services.

The petition calls on Metro North Hospital and Health Service Chair of the Board Jim McGowan to immediately reverse the decision and relocate the Inpatient Gynaecology Unit.  

 

Media contact: Lou Robson - 0422 550 278