Few apply for midwife jobs

Rebecca ParishNorth West Telegraph
WA Country Health Services is struggling to find permanent midwives at Hedland Health Campus.
Camera IconWA Country Health Services is struggling to find permanent midwives at Hedland Health Campus. Credit: Heather McNeill

WA Country Health Services is struggling to find staff for permanent midwife positions at Hedland Health Campus, as the country faces a nationwide shortage of medical professionals willing to work in rural centres.

More than seven of about 11 full-time midwife positions were vacant at the hospital at August 16, according to data provided to State Parliament recently.

Many of those positions have had to be covered by a combination of fixed-term, casual and agency-registered staff.

Acting Health Minister Mike Nahan said WACHS continued to actively recruit for permanent midwife positions for the Hedland Health Campus but had found it difficult, as had other health services across northern Australia, in finding those willing to work permanently in Hedland.

He also said it seemed unlikely the situation would be different for the rest of the year.

“Between July 2015 and June 2016, 16 qualified midwives were engaged on temporary full-time agency contracts, with the majority of those engaged for between two and three months on each occasion,” he said. “These staff provided about 20 per cent of the roster coverage required in the health campus maternity service during that period.

“The remuneration of WA nurses and midwives is among the highest in the country and the location-based benefits which apply in Hedland are also competitive.”

Labor Member for Mining and Pastoral Stephen Dawson said it was not good enough that nearly 70 per cent of midwife positions at Port Hedland Hospital were vacant and being filled by casual, agency or fly-in, fly-out staff.

“What this means in practical terms is that pregnant women could be seeing a different midwife at almost every pre-natal appointment,” he said.

“Having an ongoing relationship with a midwife is very important when you’re having a baby — they know your history and circumstances and you don’t have to go over the same things at every appointment.”

Mr Dawson said there was also a high number of Aboriginal women having babies at Hedland Health Campus, adding that agency or FIFO nurses were at a greater risk of not being “culturally aware”.

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