Article Title

Giving birth in the Murrumbidgee region: A quantitative and qualitative approach to general practice obstetrics in a rural region


Objective: There is public concern regarding rural workforce shortages and closure of smaller obstetric centres.

Aim: To identify whether safety is a concern for Murrumbidgee hospitals that fit primary medical care models and ascertain general practitioner (GP) obstetricians’ perspectives regarding the benefits and challenges to practising in the region.

Design: Mixed-method retrospective analysis of selected outcomes in the NSW Mothers and Babies Reports 2012–2015 and semi-structured interviews with GP obstetricians.

Setting: Murrumbidgee Local Health District.

Main outcome measures: Evaluation of the safety of smaller hospitals (i.e. discharge status at birth, neonatal resuscitation and admission to intensive care); and iterative thematic analysis.

Results: This study provides evidence that smaller hospitals are providing safe obstetric care. Fewer babies were transferred, with fewer stillbirths, at the smaller hospitals and no difference in newborn deaths. There were more normal vaginal births in the smaller hospitals (70.0%) than in Wagga Wagga Base Hospital (57.2%) or Griffith Base Hospital (58.6%). There were fewer neonatal resuscitations in the smaller hospitals than in Wagga Wagga Base Hospital or Griffith Base Hospital. More than one-quarter of babies were admitted into the special care/neonatal intensive care for both Wagga Wagga and Griffith Base Hospitals; however, the rate was <3% in the smaller hospitals (p < 0.001). GPs were overwhelmingly positive about the professional rewards of GP obstetric practice and the importance of continuity of care, despite barriers such as workforce shortages, loss of facilities and other staff (midwives and anaesthetists). Possible solutions included fostering support systems, proactive succession planning and improving training support.

Conclusions: GP obstetricians are providing a valuable, safe service in MLHD with both personal and community benefits.


continuity of care, GP obstetrics, maternal choice, model of care, workforce

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