FIGHTING BACK: Freyja Smith with her nine-week-old daughter, Amelia Polidano, will protest against cuts to community nurses.
FIGHTING BACK: Freyja Smith with her nine-week-old daughter, Amelia Polidano, will protest against cuts to community nurses. Doug Eaton

Mothers alarm at health nurse cuts

MOTHERS in the Byron Shire fear the support system provided by community health nurses in the Byron Shire is slowly being eroded.

As the area continues to grow and birth rates boom, the North Coast Area Health Service has cut the hours provided by the Byron Shire's two community health nurses, reducing two full-time positions to one and a half.

The Northern Star understands that the North Coast Area Health Service initially promised to restore the hours, but has since reneged, and now says the situation will be reviewed in 12 months.

Services provided by the community health nurses such as antenatal classes, home visits and baby clinics have already been slashed.

Mothers are getting together at the Bangalow Community Health next week to stage a peaceful protest.

Mullumbimby's Freyja Smith, who has a nine-week-old daughter, said the support of community health nurses was invaluable, especially for first-time mothers like herself.

The nurses conduct home visits for mothers in the early weeks after a baby is born, check for signs of postnatal depression and problems with the baby, make themselves available for phone chats at any time and facilitate new mothers groups.

“I can personally say that they have saved my sanity,” Ms Smith said.

“I'm a first-time mum with no clue about babies - without these nurses I don't know how I would have managed.”

Clunes mother Janey Lacson is similarly grateful for the support of community health nurses.

When her daughter Coco was born, she had just moved to Clunes after a stint overseas, had no family to lean on, and five weeks after the birth her husband was called away to work on an overseas oil rig.

“It was Christmas time and I was home alone with a five-week-old baby. The nurses rang on Christmas Day just to check I was OK. That's the kind of thing that gets you over the line.”

A peaceful protest will be held at the Bangalow Community Health Centre next Monday, August 31 at 10am. All parents are welcome to attend.



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