Shock new claims about Wollongong Hospital's temporary birthing unit

The rooms do not have private toilet or shower facilities. Picture: Robert Peet
The rooms do not have private toilet or shower facilities. Picture: Robert Peet

Shocking new allegations about Wollongong Hospital's temporary birthing unit have come to light as an online petition gathers momentum.

In the past week more than 2100 people have signed the change.org petition which calls on NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard to explore alternative options for a temporary unit while the existing one is upgraded.

Women will be moved to a former intensive care unit for up to six months from January while the $2.2 million upgrade takes place.

Thirroul resident Kate Brandreth started the petition after discovering the temporary accommodation had no bath facilities - hence no water births - and shared showers and toilets.

Another resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, has since shared a number of other claims about the temporary facility.

The resident has been in the temporary unit and said women would have to walk up to 30m to get to the shared facilities - passing waiting and assessment rooms.

"There has been no mention of a 24-hour cleaner so infection control is a concern if bathrooms will be used in succession - for instance if a mother has a virus or communicable disease."

There was just one room with ensuite facilities, but this was being reserved for patients experiencing fetal deaths, the resident said.

Meantime the rooms were not sound-proof and the birthing beds were too wide to fit through the doors. This posed occupational, health and safety risks to women needing urgent transfer to the operating theatre.

The main corridor and waiting room in Wollongong Hospital's temporary birthing unit. Picture: Robert Peet

The main corridor and waiting room in Wollongong Hospital's temporary birthing unit. Picture: Robert Peet

The resident added that the temporary space was located right next to the morgue; and said the option of opening up the over-census beds in the post-natal ward had not been considered.

The Mercury put all the allegations to hospital management to confirm, deny or clarify.

Maternity and Women's Health Service Lead Barbara Atkins said the safety and well-being of women and babies had been the greatest consideration in planning the temporary, and upgraded maternity unit.

However Ms Atkins said it was "simply not possible" to retrofit ensuites and baths in the temporary space.

"Showers are available for use throughout labour and following birth," she said. "Women do not need to walk past waiting areas to get to the shared bathrooms and women's privacy will be maintained.

"There is also a room with an ensuite available and its allocation will be determined based on presentations on the day."

Ms Atkins said the temporary birthing unit was directly opposite operating theatres, accessible through a private corridor with a short public passageway to cross of around five metres.

"Wollongong Hospital strictly adheres to infection control practices to ensure the highest standards of cleanliness and disinfection are maintained," she said.

She encouraged women to speak with their midwife or doctor about any specific concerns they may have: "We will continue to listen to feedback from women and address their concerns where possible".

This story Shock new claims about hospital's temporary birthing unit first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.