Sun. May 26th, 2024

For 25 years, Cape York women had to travel 800km to give birth. That’s about to change

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May24,2024
Travelling during the last month of pregnancy – or if suffering early complications – has caused disruption for mums, their partners and families for decades in the far north region.
Alex Dunn worked as a doctor in Weipa for seven years.
Two of his daughters were born during that time, and his family were forced to travel to Cairns for maternity services like every other resident.

“Across the board, everyone has to leave town,” the Rural Doctors’ Association Queensland president told AAP.


Women will have access to a purpose-built birthing unit with two rooms and a birthing pool Credit: Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service/PR Image

Birthing on Country

Leaving their home, and not having access to local antenatal and postnatal care, can have a significant impact on families.
But that effect is especially pronounced on First Nations families.
“For First Nations families who want a baby born on Country and have strongly held beliefs about that, it can be quite traumatic,” Weipa midwifery director Michelle O’Connor said.

Ms O’Connor added that continuity of relationship-based care between an expectant mum and her midwife delivers better birth outcomes, including preventing preterm labour or low birth weight and increasing vaginal births.

‘It’s a massive achievement’

Around 60 per cent of women in the Western Cape will be eligible to access Weipa birthing services.
Women with high-risk pregnancies will still have to travel to Cairns.
A purpose-built birthing unit with two rooms, a birthing pool, and consistent access to a midwife with antenatal and postnatal care will now be available for Weipa as part of the government’s $42 million boost to maternity services.
“It’s a massive achievement for Weipa to get this up and going,” Dr Dunn said.

“Too often we hear about rural maternity services as a service in crisis but to get one up and running should be celebrated.”

More to come

Women are already excited about the new service, Ms O’Connor said, with much anticipation for the first birth at the facility.
The government touted the investment as a win for the community.
“This new service will ensure more choice and safe access to maternity care for expectant mums in the Western Cape region,” Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said.
Dr Dunn said the long wait for a birthing service to return to Weipa came down to recruiting a stable workforce and infrastructure in the remote area.
“You also need to deliver really good all round medical care both in the community and the hospital environment before you can take that next step,” he said.

Biloela and Cooktown have been flagged as the next spots for maternity support.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “For 25 years, Cape York women had to travel 800km to give birth. That’s about to change”
  1. As a mother of two, I can imagine how stressful it must have been for these women to travel long distances for childbirth. It’s a relief to see progress being made to provide better access to maternity services locally. Every mother deserves the opportunity to give birth in a safe and supportive environment.

  2. As a mother myself, I can only imagine the stress and anxiety Cape York women faced having to travel 800km to give birth. This change will truly make a positive impact on their lives and families.

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