It has been a year-long wait, but birthing services will be returning to the Whyalla Hospital. 

From July 1, the Woonabie Birthing Unit will be available to women with low-risk pregnancies who are at 37 weeks or more gestation.

Expectant mum and Whyalla hospital nurse Taylor Breen said she was relieved she would be able to welcome her first child in her home town. 

“I always hoped that the birthing unit in Whyalla might open in time for us,” Ms Breen said.

“We were going to go to Port Augusta, but this makes everything so much more convenient.”

Ms Breen is relieved birthing services at Whyalla hospital will return in time for the birth of her first child.(ABC North and West SA: Arj Ganesan)

Some patients may still be referred to Port Augusta Hospital or alternate services in special circumstances, such as those who need to be induced or when demand exceeds the capacity of the midwifery team.

Several experienced midwives from the United Kingdom are expected to relocate to Whyalla in the coming months, at which time all maternity services will return to the hospital.

Travelling to give birth ‘stressful’

The reopening of Whyalla’s birthing services has been long awaited with many women disappointed at the need to travel to Port Augusta or Adelaide to give birth.

Natasha Watson had to start travelling to Port Augusta, nearly an hour’s drive from home, for treatment and to eventually give birth in August after Whyalla closed its service two months prior.

A lack of birthing services in Whyalla meant Natasha Watson had to travel 75km per week prior to the birth of her son, Reggie.(ABC North and West SA: Arj Ganesan)

The new mum, who was diagnosed with an irritable uterus at 34 weeks, would often experience premature contractions on the “bumpy drive” to Port Augusta from Whyalla.

“Quite often, it would restart a few of the contractions, so I’d have to stay in overnight in Port Augusta before I was released to be able to come back home,” she said.

“It was a very stressful time.”

The lead-up to 10-month-old Reggie’s birth was stressful for his mum, Natasha, due to the lack of birthing services in Whyalla.(ABC North and West SA: Arj Ganesan)

How the government restored services

Following the closure of the birthing services, an independent review was commissioned that found a “fractured” relationship between midwives and SA Health executives was a contributing factor to critical workforce shortages.

Since then, the government has been working towards addressing all eight recommendations outlined in the independent review.

In December, Charlotte Groves took on the newly created position of director of midwifery at the Flinders and Upper North Local Health Network.

During her tenure as the midwifery unit manager in the Women’s Assessment Service at the Women’s and Children’s Health Network, Ms Groves helped establish the statewide Women’s Virtual Assessment Service for women who had early pregnancy and urgent gynaecological concerns.

The review also called for the birthing unit to re-locate to a newer part of the hospital, which was opened in May.