AMA WA boss warns diversion of maternity patients from King Edward Memorial Hospital could be symptomatic of stress on public system

King Edward Memorial Hospital in Subiaco.
King Edward Memorial Hospital in Subiaco.

THE diversion of maternity patients at the state’s largest maternity hospital last week is symptomatic of the stress being placed on the public system warns WA’s peak doctor lobby group.

Pregnant women were diverted from King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH) last Tuesday, the third time the hospital has diverted maternity patients this year.

Last year the hospital diverted patients on one occasion.

Australian Medical Association WA President Omar Khorshid said the figures were concerning and highlighted a range of issues that public hospitals had to cope with.

“While the birth rate in WA has not increased dramatically, the number of high risk pregnancies from older and larger mothers continues to increase,” he said.

“Older and obese maternity patients bring greater risks to a pregnancy, and mothers and babies may require longer stints in hospital.

“It also demonstrates that more people are opting to utilise the public hospitals rather than the private system, increasing demand and creating further stress on public hospitals.

“Diversion during exceptionally busy periods is an appropriate safety mechanism for in rare circumstances.

“However seeing three diversions at the state’s largest maternity hospital so far in 2018 is cause for concern because other maternity hospitals are not as well equipped for complex pregnancies as KEMH.”

However a North Metropolitan Health Service spokesman said diversion was standard operational practice for hospitals dealing with an unusually high number of obstetric patients.

“As a result of increased demand, King Edward Memorial Hospital commenced maternity diversion for low risk patients at 3pm on February 28 for a period of just over 24 hours,” he said.

“No at risk women were impacted in their care.

“All were managed within their respective health service area and no women requiring the specialist services at King Edward Memorial Hospital were turned away.”

The spokesman said due to the nature of obstetrics, there was always a degree of activity which could not be planned.

“The Women and Newborn Health Service and respective health services continually monitor and review capacity to ensure the safe delivery of services,” he said.

“The decision to divert is always made in the interest of patient safety and in collaboration with other hospitals to ensure capacity is available at other sites across the system.

“KEMH is never on diversion for severely pre-term pregnancies or women with significant medical or obstetric complications.”

In 2017 there were 5961 babies were born at KEMH compared to 5837 in 2016.

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