The Opposition has called on Premier Roger Cook to take urgent action to restore maternity services in Carnarvon following a “temporary” closure of services almost two years ago.
Opposition Leader Shane Love and Shadow Minister for Women’s Interests Mia Davies met with local residents in Carnarvon this week to discuss the impacts of the closure.
“Maternity services at Carnarvon hospital were shuttered with little warning back in February 2022, leaving expectant families to make long trips to Geraldton, Perth, and beyond to access critical services,” Mr Love said.
“Despite a promise from the Minister for Health at the time that these services would be restored as soon as possible, it has now been almost two years and there still does not appear to be any timeframe or plan to restore services.”
Labor’s closure of maternity services in Carnarvon in February 2022 has impacted 163 families to date, costing the State Government over $635,000 in transport and accommodation subsidies.
“If the State Government had reinvested a portion of that funding into incentives to support regional midwifery attraction and retention, it would have delivered a much better result for Gascoyne families.
Shadow Minister for Women’s Interests Mia Davies expressed ongoing concerns from residents, particularly young families, who are forced to undertake extensive travel to give birth.
“Since February 2022, we have seen families diverted as far away as Karratha, Bunbury, and even Busselton – over 1,000 kilometres away – to give birth, isolated from friends, family, and their communities,” Ms Davies said.
“The ongoing closure of this critical healthcare service is not only affecting the wellbeing of families but also acting as a barrier for those considering relocating to the region.”
Ms Davies said strict eligibility requirements to access the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme (PATS) meant some families were also being left out of pocket.
“WA has the lowest fuel subsidy in Australia and cumbersome rules around who can qualify as a patient escort,” she said.
“This adds a significant financial burden on top of the emotional burden for expectant families, especially if complications arise and longer stays are required.”
Mr Love called on Premier Roger Cook to make the restoration of maternity services a top priority. “Residents are understandably frustrated after two years of being told that this closure is temporary,” Mr Love said.
“We urge the Premier to provide a guarantee on when this vital service will be restored.
“The current inability to access maternity services between Geraldton and Karratha in a State as prosperous as WA is simply unacceptable.”