New antenatal and postnatal care unit for Aboriginal families

Aboriginal families having their baby at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital will now have access to South Australia’s first ever purpose-built unit for the Aboriginal Family Birthing Program.

Premier Steven Marshall said the new unit is part of a $50 million sustainment works program being carried out at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH), while planning continues for a new WCH to be collocated with the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

“We have invested $550 million towards the first works of a brand new WCH, but we are determined to ensure that South Australian women and children continue to receive world-class care in modern facilities as we plan for the new hospital,” Premier Marshall said.

“This purpose-built facility for the Aboriginal Family Birthing Program complements the excellent services provided at WCH, with a culturally appropriate space that allows Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff to provide dedicated care in a multidisciplinary team environment.

“This service is essential to help close the gap. Currently, 15 per cent of Aboriginal babies are born at a low birth weight compared to 7.4 per cent of non-Aboriginal babies, and 15 per cent of Aboriginal babies are born prematurely compared to 9.3 per cent of non-Aboriginal babies.”

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said providing these maternity services in a culturally appropriate environment with the support of midwives, medical consultants, Aboriginal Maternal Infant Care (AMIC) workers, social workers and family support workers is an important step forward in the delivery of culturally safe health care.

“The development of the new facility has become a reality thanks to significant support from the Aboriginal community, Aboriginal staff, midwives, and obstetricians,” Minister Wade said.

“This continues the work started by the Anangu Bibi Birthing Program in Port Augusta Hospital in 2004, which led to a number of Aboriginal Family Birthing Programs across South Australia.”

Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s and Children’s Health Network, Lindsey Gough, said the new unit will enhance the Aboriginal Family Birthing Program, which has provided culturally respectful care for Aboriginal women and women with an Aboriginal baby during their pregnancy, birth and the six-week postnatal period since 2009.

“The program has significantly improved health outcomes for Aboriginal babies over the years, including decreased rates of prematurity and increased birth weights, and providing care in a purpose-built facility will better support Aboriginal families through their birthing journey,” Ms Gough said.

“There are currently 11 Aboriginal women working with other staff in the program, who have been employed through the Closing the Gap initiative.

“Around 250 Aboriginal babies are born at WCH each year, and over the last 10 years this program has had a profound and positive impact on Aboriginal families and Aboriginal communities.

“With the expanded unit we are able to provide a culturally sensitive space to support critical work and help us give the best start in life for Aboriginal babies through antenatal and postnatal care.”

The new facility includes a dedicated waiting room for Aboriginal families, private meeting areas, integration of Aboriginal artwork throughout the facility, natural light and views of country, and a floor layout that supports better access and flow.

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