Towns sharing maternity

Expectant Parkes mums have been told to come to Forbes to have their babies due to a shortage of medical practitioners to support maternity services at both hospitals.

A spokesperson for Western NSW Local Health District said available medical staff between the two towns were working on a single roster with all births currently occurring at Forbes.

"There is currently a shortage of medical practitioners available to support maternity services at both Parkes and Forbes," they said in a statement to media.

"Rural health services across Australia face similar challenges in recruiting medical staff. The WNSWLHD is working hard to find ways to attract doctors to our communities."

The health service indicates this is an interim measure, but there may be long-term changes to services.

"It is the intention to continue to provide birthing services at both Parkes and Forbes," the spokesperson said.

"What is currently under discussion is what types of births should be routinely undertaken at these sites.

"A model of maternity services suggested in an independent review commissioned by the WNSWLHD proposes low-risk births at both sites through a Midwifery Group Practice (MGP).

"Under this model, mothers who are assessed as potentially needing medical support during labour would deliver at Forbes."

Mayor Phyllis Miller says Forbes and Parkes councils will fight any loss of services.

"We have done it before and we'll do it again," she said at yesterday's Forbes Shire Council meeting.

Mayor Miller earlier issued a statement saying she had the assurance of NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard that there would be no changes to services at either hospital.

"I want to assure the residents of Forbes and Parkes that we will continue to advocate ... to ensure there are no losses of services or staff," she said.

Mayor Miller paid tribute to the Forbes Medical Centre for hosting registrars and medical students to encourage young doctors to come to the community.

Parkes Mayor Ken Keith says the decision "defies belief" and is exasperated that it has reached "crisis point".

"This dilemma has long been foreseen, as our long serving proceduralist neared retirement and should have been proactively planned and managed by Western NSW Local Health District," he said.

Cr Keith said that the community has done its part in attracting doctors through programs such as the GP Working Group and fundraising initiatives like the GP Cup which has invested more than $100,000 in attracting doctors (including proceduralists) to Parkes.

This has resulted in an increase in doctors' numbers and significantly reduced waiting times. Council has also invested in three units for registrar accommodation.

"Closing delivery suites, and ultimately reducing vital health services for the Parkes Shire community, should not be an option," he said.

"This decision will reduce health outcomes for women. The choice of women living in regional areas to birth locally should not be compromised.

"With the recent announcement of the Special Activation Precinct, construction of the Inland Rail and major developments like CleanTeQ Sunrise Mine and the expansion of Northparkes Mines, our region is currently experiencing unprecedented growth."