Portland District Health reopens delivery rooms after five months of closure due to shortage of midwives

A hospital in south-west Victoria will reopen its maternity ward this week after closing the ward for 155 days due to a lack of staff.

Portland District Health (PDH) became a political talking point when it closed its maternity ward in March, citing a lack of midwives.

The news emerged just as senior executives were leaving the organization, which was under scathing scrutiny over cultural and financial issues.

Five months later, PDH announced it would reopen this week, with services due to resume from Wednesday.

However, the good news came with a warning – the area was not yet assured of continued maternity service.

There are concerns about Portland Hospital’s ability to provide services after the closures.(Provided)

PDH acting chief executive Karena Prevett said while the reopening was good news, long-term challenges remained.

“We are really excited to be reopening our delivery services and I know our midwives and obstetrician are too,” Ms Prevett said.

“We are passionate about providing birthing services here in Portland and are happy to have overcome the challenges of the PDH roster.”

“We have to be clear with our community, this is not a permanent solution.

“We remain vulnerable to short-term challenges caused by unplanned sick days and other roster disruptions.”

Mothers thanked for their patience

PDH said it conducted an “extensive” search to recruit midwives amid national and global labor shortages.

Karena Prevett, a blonde woman in a blue shirt, smiles at the camera
Ms Prevett described the past five months as a “difficult time”.(Provided: Media Masters Vic)

The reopening of the service was made possible by the creation of a community advisory group and the earlier appointment of rural maternity consultant Fiona Faulks.

Ms Prevett thanked the families who were unable to give birth at their local hospital.

For 155 days, pregnant women in the Portland area have been forced to travel over an hour to give birth in the surrounding towns of Warrnambool, Hamilton or Mount Gambier.

“I would like to thank our staff, neighboring health services and the Ministry of Health for their assistance through this difficult time,” she said.

“I also thank and acknowledge the patience and support of the women and families affected by the temporary diversion.

“We owe you a debt of gratitude.”

The Portland District Health Maternity Hospital will reopen starting at 7 a.m. on August 17.

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