Campbelltown, South Australia – JANUARY 5, 2024 – North Eastern Community Hospital has today announced it will close its Maternity Unit on March 2nd due to both rising liability insurance risks and costs and a declining birth rate in their region.
The tough decision comes after an extensive review of hospital operations and community needs where the Maternity Unit, which has delivered more than 25,000 babies over the past 50 years, was identified as unviable due to numerous factors outside of the NECH’s control.
The decision comes in response to escalating liability risk and associated costs expected from offshore liability insurance for the specialist maternity unit services and following management and board review of the community input to determine the critical needs in the short, medium, and long-term in Adelaide’s North East.
The combination of liability concerns and declining volume of births at NECH (in part driven by rising private health insurance costs for families), coupled with overall industry midwife shortages, have prevented the NECH board from being able to responsibly approve further investment in the recruitment of additional staff numbers or the updated equipment critical to keeping their Maternity Unit at the highest possible standard.
NECH Board Chair Michael Auciello said the decision to close the Maternity Unit had been a difficult one but necessary to ensure future growth of the hospital in providing the highest quality of health services in response to the needs of their community.
Mr Auciello said the board considered all options and unanimously agreed they cannot justify allocating the required hundreds of thousands of dollars to overseas insurance companies for a service that only around 20 local families are using each month, when they can sensibly invest those funds in the critical services the wider local community now need from the hospital.
Nursing and midwife staff working in the unit have been briefed on the closure and the full suite of support they will receive from NECH allowing them to transition to another role where their valued knowledge and skills will be well utilised.
“We thank our staff for their dedication and professionalism as well as their understanding that we are obligated to ensure NECH continues to evolve and deliver to the needs of our community at the highest possible standard,’’ Mr Auciello said.
“We are proud of our 50-year history in bringing over twenty-five thousand babies into the world utilising the skills and knowledge of our committed team. Our team have excelled in their birthing role for our community, but our efforts must now be focussed on ensuring we are well placed to deliver in other areas of higher need for our community members.’’
The NECH management and maternity unit team are now working hard to support the families and their obstetricians who are booked into the Maternity Unit to find a suitable alternative for their deliveries from late February 2024 and beyond, with the likely alternatives being Burnside Memorial or Calvary North Adelaide.
Reflecting on the success of their maternity unit, NECH Clinical Manager Emily Judd said her team was proud of what had been achieved over the 50 years of providing professional maternity care for the community.
“We are looking towards making the most of this opportunity to celebrate all that we have achieved and the very positive contribution we have made in our community, and thank all the local families who have trusted us with their births – it’s been so rewarding for us all’’ she said.
“Our legacy will be that we have developed as a united and professional team dedicated to servicing this community who now require different services from our hospital as the local demographic changes.’’
The current maternity suites at NECH will soon be renovated to make them fit for purpose to respond to the discovered needs of the community, equipped with up-to-date equipment and offering the surgical procedures most in demand in the North East.
Women’s Health services including Gynaecology will continue to be offered by NECH, and planning is underway for a dedicated Ophthalmology suite which includes a Consulting Room, operating rooms, and Stage 1 & 2 recovery suites at an expected investment of more than $500,000.
To stay up to date with the latest at NECH visit www.nech.com.au