Wollongong midwives warn of ‘negative outcomes’
Worried staff say women and their babies are getting “suboptimal care” at Wollongong Hospital’s maternity department.
A shortage of midwives, poor staff mix and other issues have led to an increase in readmissions and clinical incidents at Wollongong Hospital’s maternity department, says an open letter signed by 112 hospital staff including almost all midwives.
The letter to the executive committee of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Heath District said the hospital’s NSWNMA branch is “gravely concerned” with workforce issues in the maternity service department.
It added: “These concerns have been voiced on numerous occasions and at all levels of the organisation, from midwifery managers to the chief executive, at maternity forums, workload committees, open forums, joint consultative meetings and at specific meetings with a variety of managers, up to the chief executive, Margot Mains.
“This branch is specifically concerned that patient care and patient safety is being compromised due to a lack of midwives, poor staff mix, uncertain medical leadership and a lack of clerical and domestic support.
“This situation cannot continue, as it is also having a deleterious effect on safe care delivery, staff health and morale.”
Midwives and nurses who work in maternity are obliged to do jobs such as cleaning and making beds that their award states they should not be doing, the letter said.
“Maternity is in need of urgent domestic support so that midwives and nurses can spend time giving care, in a safe and timely manner.”
The letter said midwives in the antenatal and gynaecology clinics and the birthing and neonatal units were obliged to perform clerical work that diverted them from their clinical work, which could have “negative outcomes” for patients. ■
“I’ve never been scared to come to work before but I am now”
Midwife Emma Gedge says it is “heartbreaking” to see the impact of poor staffing on Wollongong Hospital midwives.“The workload is absolutely exhausting and morale is very low,” she says.
“We are all very supportive of each other and we all do our best to boost morale but it’s really soul destroying at the moment.”
Emma works on the post-natal ward which is often staffed by just two midwives with midwifery vacancies filled by RNs, ENs and AiNs.
“Night shift usually has four staff but quite often only two of them are midwives with maybe an RN and AiN.
“The two midwives are then responsible for 12 patients each, which actually means 12 mothers and 12 babies who are not counted in the numbers.
“The RNs do observations and medications but post and neo natal care are outside their scope of practice, so the midwife must supervise all of that.”
Most mothers are being discharged after 5pm when clerical and cleaning staff have finished work so it falls to midwifery and nursing staff to take up the load.
“Paperwork takes a massive amount of time and we often stay back late.
“We rarely get meal breaks and if we do eat, we’re eating at the desk while we do something else. I can’t Remember the last time I took a proper meal break.”
Emma says she has stopped cleaning beds in line with a decision of the NSWNMA branch.
“I’ve never been scared to come to work before but I am now. Before I start on night shift I’m thinking, how many staff will there be? Am I going to be the only midwife on duty tonight? That’s how bad it is.”