York mother forced to give birth in car park

Brad, Nathan, Mikayla, Brody, Charlotte and Megan happy to be with a safe and healthy Charlotte, born on Thursday ...
Brad, Nathan, Mikayla, Brody, Charlotte and Megan happy to be with a safe and healthy Charlotte, born on Thursday October 6 in the Glen Forrest Shopping Centre carpark. Photo: Avon Advocate

A Wheatbelt mother has been forced to deliver her fourth child on the side of the road last week - highlighting the issue of Northam hospital's lack of planned birthing maternity care.

After having a small contraction at 5.30am on Thursday September 29, York resident Megan Walker notified St John of God public hospital in Midland she was on her way with partner Brad.

"We got to The Lakes when the contractions were coming one after the other," Ms Walker explained. 

The family with the Nissan Navara that became a makeshift birthing suite.
The family with the Nissan Navara that became a makeshift birthing suite. Photo: Avon Advocate

"When we got to Glen Forrest, that's when I felt the need to push."

Her partner Brad ran to the nearby Glen Forrest shopping centre to ask for help, but it was too late, and daughter Charlotte was born in the car.

"When he came back out, she was in my arms," Ms Walker said.

"I was sitting in the front seat of the ute, I hardly had to push – she just came out."

Staff from the nearby Glen Forrest Medical Centre helped out, saying it was an interesting start to the day.

"We had to find blankets, something to wrap the baby in," receptionist Virginia Wickham said.

Advertisement

"It was exciting and something you don't get every day that's for sure."

The emergency birth highlights the downside of the Northam Hospital being unable to conduct planned birthing at Northam.

St John of God Midland can be at least a one to two hour drive for people like Ms Walker living in the Wheatbelt, with Narrogin Hospital also a considerable distance away.

Dr Colin Smyth was the long-serving obstetrician of Northam District Hospital for 35 years, and up until his retirement in July 2015, delivered an average of 50 babies a year.

Dr Smythe delivered Ms Walker's first two children, Mikayla, 10, and Brodie, 8 at Northam.

These days, Northam has a well serviced team of 14 doctors, however none of them have obstetric qualifications.

An obstetrician from the St John of God Midland Public Hospital provides fortnightly outpatient clinics at the Northam Hospital – including antenatal care for medium to high risk patients.

In response to Parliamentary questions in September, WA Health Minister Kim Hames revealed that the State Government had no plans to reinstate full maternity services at Northam anytime soon.

Despite this, WA Country Health Service, Wheatbelt acting regional director Sean Conlan said Northam Hospital has facilities to attend to women in labour.

"Whilst there is currently no services for planned birthing at Northam, a woman in labour would be cared for by the emergency department team at Northam, which has three shifts of doctors, supported by midwives, providing services every day of the week," he said.

"At least one of these shifts is staffed by a senior emergency specialist who is on call to back up the other doctors.

"There are strong links between Northam and the St John of God Midland Public Hospital that ensures that transfers proceed as quickly as possible."

However, Megan's partner Brad said Northam was meant to be a SuperTown - a state government initiative to revitalise and expand nine WA country towns - ​but if it couldn't deliver babies, it wasn't so super.

The birth of Ms Walker's 14-month-old son Nathan on the 2015 Avon Descent weekend was also complicated, and with no ambulance available for a transfer to the old Swan Districts hospital, he was born in Northam. 

Local Labor MLC Darren West said he was frustrated with the current lack of urgency when it came to health services in Northam.

"This has clearly been a most distressing situation for the affected family and I sincerely hope the mother and baby are doing well," he said.

"The Wheatbelt has over 70,000 residents in over 40 local governments and it is unacceptable that its largest centre, Northam, has no maternity services at the hospital.

Central Wheatbelt MP Mia Davies said will raise the issue of maternity services at Northam hospital directly with Dr Hames to try to resolve the issue. 

"WA Country Health Service advise me that they are recruiting for an obstetrician and necessary support staff, and that it isn't a budget measure preventing the positions being filled," she said.