Yass Mayor Rowena Abbey said she understood the call for maternity services in the region, but that it needed to be looked at in conjunction with demand for other high-priority health services.
The comments follow Member for Canberra Alicia Payne’s call to Scott Morrison during question time on Wednesday (17 June), about the “unacceptable” lack of maternity services in Yass.
Cr Abbey said while she could respect the concern over the lack of maternity services, she believed there were many high-priority services required.
“The argument is that it’s terrifying giving birth on the way to the hospital and I agree, but it’s not much fun if you’re a cancer patient who has to travel to Canberra three times a week for treatment either,” she said.
“The community want to see a review of all of those services to see what we as a community need, and to make sure we are prioritising that.”
The Yass Valley Council has called on the NSW Government to undertake a clinical services review in its entirety, which Cr Abbey said she hoped would be done by the end of the year.
The Yass region has both pre- and post-natal services, however, has not had specialist maternity services in the town since 2004.
“Maternity services stopped here because no one was using [what] we had here as they were opting to go to Canberra,” she said.
“I guess it came down to the lack of an operating theatre or specialist if something goes wrong.
“I don’t think anyone would argue that our pre- and post-natal services need improving and that’s why we are doing a review.”
Labor candidate for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain, has been backing the call during her by-election campaign and said parents in the growing Yass region deserved choice.
“We are asking for a low-risk maternity ward which would mean a fitted-out birthing room and post-natal services,” she said.
“For higher and more complex maternity needs, there are other hospitals who are well suited to take care of that.
“If we were to return maternity services to the region, it gives parents choice, and everyone should have that choice as to where they birth.”
Currently, pregnant women in Yass Valley are required to travel to Canberra or Goulburn for specialist maternity services, with concern growing after multiple women gave birth on the Barton Highway before making it to a hospital.
Mr Morrison’s response to Ms Payne sparked controversy across the nation, stating the Federal Government had committed $150 million upgrade to the Barton Highway rather than addressing the lack of services.
Ms Payne said she was “floored” by the Prime Minister’s comments on Wednesday that showed he was out of touch.
“Obviously I was floored by the response when I asked if it was acceptable for women in that region to have had to give birth on the side of the road and his immediate response was an upgrade to the highway,” she said.
“We were laughing at the time but in all seriousness it’s a health and safety issue and it shows how out of touch he is with families in that region and generally.
“He has come out today saying he misheard the question and that is just not good enough.”
Cr Abbey sympathised with the calls but said there would be a lot of factors to consider in the decision.
“From a pragmatic approach to the situation, I understand what is being called for, but from a practical approach there are a lot of factors that come into play,” she said.
“Our numbers are increasing so it needs to be looked at, but it needs to be looked at in conjunction with the rest of the community’s needs.”