Dominique Case with her daughter which she had to travel 200km to deliver.
Dominique Case with her daughter which she had to travel 200km to deliver. Dominique Case

How far would you go to give birth?

BOWEN'S Dominique Case had a plan for the birth of her baby, but it didn't include a 200km road trip while in labour.

Long before Dominique was due, she made a booking into the Proserpine Hospital - even though she lives in Bowen.

But the weekend she went into labour there were no doctors at Proserpine Hospital and she was told she would need to travel to Mackay, almost 200km away.

Making the journey with her partner, she began vomiting from the contractions and in severe pain; but with no other options they had to complete the two-hour drive.

Luckily, Dominique gave birth safely. However, she said all the stress could have been avoided if Bowen Hospital had the facilities to deliver babies.

Many others in Bowen have shared similar stories of frustration and pain made worse by being forced to travel long distances while in labour, which is precisely why the Save Bowen Hospital Services campaign was started.

Birthing services for Bowen Hospital were cut in the late 1990s as the service was "no longer safe for mothers and their unborn babies” according to Queensland Minister for Health Cameron Dick.

Since then, expectant mothers have been directed to Proserpine Hospital - close to 100km away - for support.

Save Bowen Hospital Services campaigner Kerry Meier said when she arrived 13 years ago many of the services had already been cut, but since then conditions have worsened.

"Services have gradually, over the years, been decreasing to the point where people in town are concerned about what's going on here,” Ms Meier said.

"We are trying to attract big business and infrastructure into our town and we don't even have basic services like maternity or dialysis.”

Ms Meier has been organising with others in her community and in August submitted a petition to Mr Dick.

In his response, the Health Minister said antenatal and postnatal care had increased and Queensland Health services were "committed to providing rural clinical services as close to the consumer's home as possible, provided it is clinically safe to do so”.

This response wasn't enough for Ms Meier, who said for the sake of her community she would "try and take it further”.

In 2015-16 there were 248 births at Proserpine Hospital, 49 of these were people travelling from Bowen.

During the same period, 18 women from around the Whitsunday region were transferred to Mackay Base Hospital due to a shortage of medical cover at Proserpine Hospital.

Mackay Hospital and Health Services Chief Executive Helen Chalmers said a shortage of cover can happen when doctors with surgical and anaesthetic skills are not available in case an emergency caesarean is needed.

"Reasons for unavailability can include unexpected leave such as illness or fatigue,” she said.

In April this year, Member for Mirani Jim Pearce announced Bowen Hospital would receive $10.9million for major upgrades.

"Bowen's Emergency Department will be expanded as part of a series of works at the hospital scheduled to start in April,” he said.

"The Emergency Department works will provide a dedicated procedure room, while in the general ward three in-patient rooms will have en suites built.”

None of these upgrades, however, include services for birthing facilities at the regional hospital.

On September 26, Ms Meier was contacted by Mackay Hospital and Health Service board to request a meeting.

No date has been confirmed, however, she hopes the board is genuine in wanting to address Bowen Hospital's maternity issues.

If conditions at the hospital don't improve, Ms Meier is concerned about the future of the region.

"We want families to come to town and no family wants to come if they can't have a baby here,” she said.

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