Murwillumbah Hospital.
Murwillumbah Hospital. File photo

Mothers-to-be rally to save Murwillumbah birthing unit

EXPECTANT mothers of northern NSW, distressed over the state government's snap decision to close the birthing unit at Murwillumbah Hospital, are leading a community campaign to save the service.

On Friday the service was shut down for birthing, giving expectant women only days' notice to change their birthing plans.

After initially stating the unit would re-open, the local health department now says a review of the service will take place.

Murwillumbah women will now face travelling a further 30 minutes up the highway to Tweed Hospital in order to give birth, with local women fearing the potential for roadside births.

"If my birth was at the Tweed I would have had my baby in the car," Sandi Brown, of Uki, said of her 45-minute labour at Murwillumbah Hospital five months ago.

Others are now planning homebirths.

"It's either homebirth or the highway for me," Murwillumbah's Michelle Seamer said of her fourth baby, due in nine weeks.

The Northern NSW Local Health District informed the public there were insufficient doctors in the surrounding area with advanced neonatal resuscitation qualifications.

However, the local community wants to know why the health district had not already taken steps to upskill the midwives to cope with this, in the same way other health services had.

The protest rally will be addressed by Reece Byrnes from the office of Federal Richmond MP Justine Elliott, Greens spokesperson Dawn Walker, Maternity Choices Director Leah Hardiman, and Murwillumbah resident Rachel Bryant, whose petition had 2500 signatories as of Monday afternoon.

The petition to stop the suspension and/or closure of the birthing suite garnered 1300 signatures in 24 hours.

"I'm worried that if this downgrading process continues, it will reach the point where the hospital is closed," Ms Elliot said.

Lismore MP Thomas George said the decision was made for the "safety of mothers and their babies".

Mr George welcomed the review and also said he hoped "a suitable specialist is appointed at Murwillumbah Hospital soon".

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