Four days without her baby
By ZOE SATHERLEY
BALLINA mother Amanda Convery was separated from her newborn baby for four days because Lismore Base Hospital had no equipment to bring the baby back from Brisbane.
Amanda, 19, was sent home from Brisbane with the promise Lismore Base Hospital would bring the new-born back the next day.
But the baby did not turn up and no one contacted Amanda.
When she rang LBH, where the baby was born prematurely on Wednesday, November 3, she was told the hospital's ageing portacot was beyond repair.
The portacot is 26 years old. It is a humidicrib modified for travel and is used to transfer babies. The baby could not be transferred without a functional portacot.
Amanda sat at home all this week, and it was only when The Northern Star rang Health Minister Maurice Iemma's office yesterday that the baby was returned from Brisbane's Mater Hospital to her distraught mother.
The young mother said she now feared post-natal depression had set in and her milk has dried up.
"I am just devastated by all of this. It's not right. The health system is just heartless," Amanda said yesterday morning, waiting for news of her baby.
"I'm crying all day and Jade (her 18-month-old daughter) is picking up on it too. I can't sleep or eat."
A senior LBH doctor, who asked not to be identified, said the case highlighted the desperate shortage of funds to cover essential medical equipment at LBH.
He said staff had been waiting for many years to replace the 26-year-old portacot which was often unusable.
"A new portacot costs just $16,500 but it has never made it to the top of the medical equipment priority list," he said.
"The hospital has been able to borrow a portacot from St Vincent's Private Hospital before, but it is not always available."
The doctor said it was a 'scandal' that, out of an annual budget of around $90 million, only $1.365 million was set aside last financial year for repairs, maintenance and renewal.
"And almost all of that money goes on maintenance for things like air-conditioning. Only a tiny proportion is available for discretionary spending," he said.
"And worse still, the RMR budget for 2004-2005 has been dropped by $100,000 to $1.265 million.
"It is high time the North Coast Area Health Service lobbied Treasury for a fair and equitable share of health funding for our region."
Baby Maddison was born six weeks prematurely at LBH and transferred to the Mater because of breathing difficulties.
Amanda was discharged 18 hours after the birth and left to make her own way to Brisbane, to be with her tiny daughter.
On Sunday night the baby was well enough to be transferred back to LBH.
"Staff at the Mater sent me home saying the baby would follow first thing on Monday morning. But the baby didn't turn up because LBH couldn't find a portacot to borrow," Amanda said.
Dan Madden, executive officer of LBH, said a new portacot had now been ordered and would be in operation within a day.
He said he did not think media involvement had been influential in gaining the equipment. "It has been on order for some time, and now that the old one is unable to be repaired we are replacing it," he said.