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Victoria a no-go zone for pregnant women outside Echuca-Moama bubble

By Ivy Jensen

PREGNANT women outside the border bubble will not be able to access the Echuca and Cohuna hospitals for care without consequences.

NSW Member for Murray Helen Dalton told the Riverine Herald that as of Thursday morning, there was still no permit for NSW residents beyond the border bubble to travel to Victoria for medical treatment.

“I’ve had pregnant women calling my office in tears, so stressed at an already stressful time in their lives,” she said.

“If they do, they have to isolate for 14 days. This is impossible for women with small children, or those with daily or weekly medical appointments.”

The nearest hospitals in NSW that provide maternity services are Deniliquin and Wagga.

“Women now face a four to five-hour drive, while pregnant, to get to urgent appointments on the NSW side of the border,” Ms Dalton said.

“What's happening is absolutely horrific. The NSW Government are denying pregnant women and cancer patients access to their regular hospital.”

Cohuna District Hospital chief executive Ben Haw said four pregnant women had been affected by the border closure.

“These women live outside the border bubble and cannot access a border permit,” he said.

“We would love the opportunity to continue to support these women but at the moment we have to do the responsible thing and advise them of the risk and consequences of re-entering NSW.

“The issue with the border closure and restrictions means that anyone outside the bubble will have to self-isolate for two weeks upon re-entry to NSW and may face a serious fine if they break that.

“We have been proactive by sending them a letter advising them of the situation so they can make other arrangements.”

The letter states that, due to the border closure “your ongoing pregnancy care will have to be referred to and handed over to a maternity care provider in NSW for ongoing management”.

“We understand this is an unsettling time and would like to reassure you were are advocating and working closely with the Victorian Department of Health to have some further guidance on these restrictions,” the letter states.

“We’re hopeful this creates a spotlight on the issues. There will be other women wanting to use our services in the future and we’re hoping there will be a way to do this soon,” Mr Haw said.

Echuca Regional Health.

Echuca Regional Health's executive director of nursing June Dyson said the service's approach with women booked to give birth at ERH was to contact them individually, work through their options and support them with their decision-making.

“We are very happy for women from NSW outside of the border zone to birth at ERH, however we are obliged to let them know that this will mean they will have to self-isolate on return to NSW,” she said.

“Understanding this may prove difficult for some women, we will also facilitate a transfer of their care to a NSW birthing service if that is their wish.

“This includes identifying NSW hospital alternatives for birthing which usually requires them to travel further distances to access care.

“Follow-up home care post-birth is also discussed as many services are not offering a visiting service at this time. We provide telehealth follow-up for women living outside of the border zone in NSW and where practicable liaise with NSW Maternal and Child health services for those women requiring face-to-face support.”

Ms Dyson said the NSW Government was closely monitoring the unintended consequences on rural communities as a result of the new restrictions and had already flagged changes that would better support people living in isolated areas.

“We will continue to work closely with our broader community and update them with any further changes that may impact access essential health services.”

However, Ms Dalton said the cross-border issue should have been resolved by now.

“The NSW Government have told me for days that they'll fix this up, but they still have not. I've been pleading with them to do so, this is urgent,” she said.

“Gladys Berejiklian could fix this with a stroke of a pen. All she needs to do is widen the border zone to cover all those small NSW towns with no health services.

“The fact is her government has stripped down health services in rural NSW, so people are now dependent on Victorian health care.

“If this is not resolved this week, I'll take it up with the Australian Human Rights Commission. This is a human rights issue.”

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