Mum-to-be’s COVID-19 symptoms spark birth centre change

A MUM-TO-BE displaying coronavirus symptoms has presented at Mackay Birth Centre, resulting in drastic measures to keep other pregnant women safe in case of a positive diagnosis.

The revelation comes as the Mackay Hospital and Health Service rejects claims the birth centre has closed indefinitely.

MHHS chief executive Jo Whitehead said midwives had agreed to stop using the Mackay Birth Centre for their antenatal and post-natal appointments if an expectant mother presented with COVID-19 symptoms.

"Due to the time it takes to receive a COVID-19 test result (up to 48 hours) we must work on the assumption the case is positive and meet strict infection prevention guidelines," Ms Whitehead said.

The spotting of removalist trucks taking furniture out of the birth centre has escalated tensions between MHHS and Friends of the Mackay Birth Centre.

A letter sent to birth centre clients on Thursday advised antenatal appointments had been relocated to 2/288 Bridge Road, South Mackay.

But Friends of the Mackay Birth Centre member Letitia Commerford said midwives had fought to keep their appointments at the centre.

She said there had been a breakdown in communication between the hospital and the birth centre over the past month, arguing MHHS was not open to negotiation.

Ms Commerford said the centre was not "equipped to deal with high-risk (labours) including epidurals, C-sections and even gas".

Since April 17, Mackay Birth Centre's two rooms have been closed so expectant mothers with COVID-19 could use them if needed.

Mackay mum Chloe Miller only learned of the centre's closure hours before giving birth on April 21.

She said she had arranged to have her third child at the centre - drawn to promise of a "beautiful, relaxing and calm" atmosphere after the "traumatising" experience of her first childbirth.

"The day I went into labour was the same day I went into the birth centre to get my stretch and sweep," Ms Miller said.

"I went into my appointment … but was told to come back later on when I was in active labour to have my baby in the labour ward (at the hospital)."

Ms Miller said she ended up having a water birth but went home with her baby three hours later feeling "disgusted" and "disappointed" over the experience.


Letitia Commerford who has given birth to all three of her children at Mackay Birth Centre.
Letitia Commerford who has given birth to all three of her children at Mackay Birth Centre.

Ms Commerford said if there were no confirmed COVID-19 cases, the birth centre should be reopened.

"We are hearing that the labour ward is very much stretched at the moment, generally the ward overnight is full," she said.

A Friends of the Mackay Birth Centre's Facebook page post calling to reinstate the centre has received almost 900 comments and 300 shares.

And a petition Ms Commerford began on has attracted more than 2500 supporters.

"We are beyond disappointed with the hospital's complete disregard for women's rights … we are disgusted by the lack of respect shown to the amazing birth centre midwives," Ms Commerford said on the petition's page.

Ms Whitehead said the move to use the birth centre for expectant mothers with COVID-19 was in line with advice from infectious disease specialists, midwives and doctors within the Women's Health Unit.

"All COVID-19 services across Mackay Base Hospital including within maternity services are due to be reviewed department by department next week," she said.