Labor tells NSW government to act on Yass maternity services

SPECIAL VISIT: Shadow treasurer Walt Secord and shadow minister for mental health Tara Moriarty are presented a proposal for maternity at Yass Hispital by councillor Jasmin Jones with her daughter Rosella, aged 2. Photo: supplied
SPECIAL VISIT: Shadow treasurer Walt Secord and shadow minister for mental health Tara Moriarty are presented a proposal for maternity at Yass Hispital by councillor Jasmin Jones with her daughter Rosella, aged 2. Photo: supplied

Members of the NSW Shadow Ministry say the Liberal Party should stop blaming Labor for closing maternity at Yass Hospital in 2004 and 'take responsibility'.

The state's shadow treasurer Walt Secord and shadow minister for mental health Tara Moriarty visited Yass on Tuesday to reaffirm Labor's commitment to bringing low-risk maternity services to the regional hospital.

Mr Secord said Liberal and state member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman was "making excuses" for why her party wouldn't make the same commitment.

"We asked questions just last month, Tara and I, during the health budget estimates about Yass maternity services and she and the government are still saying they're not going to do it," Mr Secord said.

"They kept pointing at us, but we said, sorry guys, you have been in government for 11 years. Stop looking in the rear-view mirror; you take responsibility."

NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay visited Goulburn last Wednesday and made the same commitment as her shadow ministry members.

Following the visit, Mrs Tuckerman blamed Labor for maternity services ending at Yass Hospital.

"Labor keep talking about maternity services in Yass, but we all know it was a Labor government that closed Yass maternity in 2004," she said.

However, Mr Secord said Mrs Tuckerman was "making excuses".

"The population is growing quicker than we originally thought (in Yass Valley) and we believe the case (for maternity at Yass Hospital) is stronger now than it was in the past," Mr Secord said.

"We'll continue to raise questions, raise motions in parliament, speak on it and highlight what we can do."

Shadow minister for mental health Tara Moriarty said they would "make sure that Wendy and the government do more."

"I don't have high hopes they will, particularly given their reaction to last week," she said.

The NSW Ministry of Health said it "is committed to ensuring the safety of birthing mothers and their newborn babies.

"Maternity services in NSW are provided at levels one (antenatal and postnatal care only), through to six (maternity tertiary referral services), and networked to enable the most appropriate care for women and babies according to clinical need," the ministry said.

"The workforce and core service requirements will vary across service levels with higher level services requiring specialist clinicians and 24 hour access to higher level support services.

"Birth services across Southern NSW Local Health District are planned and provided by the district to meet local needs, birth numbers, availability of staff and tiered network service arrangements. Census data indicates approximately 185 births per year for the Yass Valley."

Mrs Tuckerman said she would "continue to work closely with those on the ground, seek advice from health professionals and advocate for the health services required to meet those future needs".

"As we continue to monitor the demand and the level of services required, we can better understand the need for services into the future," she said.

It's certainly felt like a repeat of the lead-up to the state election in Yass Valley these past two weeks.

Maternity at Yass Hospital was a hotly debated topic between the two parties in the months before March. Liberal firmly wouldn't commit to the idea, while Labor made a $4.7 million pledge to build a maternity ward at the hospital if elected.

Recently, a feasibility study for a maternity ward at the hospital has emerged. Behind it is registered nurse and midwife of more than 13 years, Janette Jakab.

She is studying a master of primary maternity care and her study proposes to allow women with normal or low-risk pregnancies to birth at Yass Hospital.

Yass Valley councillor Jasmin Jones privately presented the feasibility study to Mr Secord and Ms Moriarty during their visit to Yass.

The shadow health minister and health minister, Yass Valley's federal and state members, the premier and deputy premier of NSW and NSW health planning staff have also been invited to review the proposal by Cr Jones.

Cr Jones said it was great to meet with Mr Secord and Ms Moriarty.

Mr Secord and Ms Moriarty also met the team behind Yass' very own space company, Cingulan Space, during their visit.

"Yass has its own space company but it doesn't have maternity. It's extraordinary," Mr Secord said.

"I was shadow health minister for five years, so I feel that I do have a commitment and obligation to fight for services."

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