After a decade of closures, a flexible approach is needed
About one in three Australian women give birth outside metropolitan areas. Historically, most of these women have been cared for by general practitioner obstetricians and midwives in local hospitals. However, in recent years it has been difficult to recruit and retain midwives and doctors with the necessary skills to adequately staff many rural maternity units providing traditional models of care. Whenever any essential component of obstetric, anaesthetic, paediatric or midwife infrastructure has become unavailable, maternity units have been closed, and women in the area are required to travel to the nearest maternity centre instead. It is estimated that more than 130 Australian rural maternity units have closed since 1995.1
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