Bad decision based on misconception

November 17, 2017

IT SADDENS me greatly to hear obstetric services have been taken away from the Cohuna Hospital indefinitely.

I was born there, my two girls were born there.

Family and friends have given birth there.

This hospital has been caring for the community for decades, their maternity care — in fact their overall care in general is second to none.

The town has battled drought, floods and fires but through it all the one constant for the community has been knowing the doors of the hospital are always going to slide open.

And Echuca Regional Health seems to be playing a little loose with its logic behind this remarkable and unexpected decision.

In a post on its own Facebook page ERH claimed the decision has been made because of the resignation and departure of the town’s second GP obstetrician.

But Dr Barker swears that is wrong. He said the departing doctor was never in a solo obstetrics role.

Dr Barker said where obstetrics were concerned his colleague could only assist under supervision.

Confirming Dr Barker has been the only GP obstetrician at Cohuna for 15 years — a situation which has never concerned the Victorian Health Department or ERH.

Many people will now be asking is this going to be the case in the future, or is this the beginning of the end?

A hospital can make or break a town and the community of Cohuna is very aware of how lucky they are to have such a great facility in their town.

Fundraising events are held religiously — 160 people recently attended a Melbourne Cup Day luncheon at Gunbower to support the hospital.

People retire to Cohuna because of the hospital.

Expectant mums from Kerang, Barham, Gunbower and Echuca have chosen Cohuna hospital as their preferred place to give birth. There is even a mother-to-be booked in from Yarrawonga to deliver.

When I had my two girls 20 years ago there was never any question in my mind where they were going to be born, it was always going to be Cohuna.

I cannot fault the care I received, in fact with my first child I spent a week in there (they probably never thought I was going to leave).

And I am sure I am not alone.

Dr Barker and his team were as meticulous then as they are now and the decision to take this service away from the town is not a reflection of the care of the hospital, but rather an issue of workload.

Despite being the only OB GP in Cohuna for the past 15 years (since the retirement of Peter Graham), Dr Barker got less than 48 hours warning of the impending indefinite bypass.

His first thought was of the 47 mothers he has booked in to have their babies in the next few months. For many of them their first awareness of this impending chaos was from social media, not any form of official contact from Echuca Regional Health.

Dr Barker’s concern was so deep he didn’t sleep at all that night.

Is this a sign of things to come?

Are more services going to be slowly taken away from Cohuna until it is nothing more than an aged care facility when for generations it has been the cradle of Cohuna and the surrounding region?

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