More services needed for premature babies

Jody Christo, with her son Raiden, is concerned about a lack of services in Wyndham for very premature babies. Photo by Damjan Janevski.

A Werribee South mother has called for Wyndham’s maternity services to be expanded to cater for babies born between 24 and 32 weeks’ gestation.

Jody Christo gave birth to her son, Raiden, on October 21 last year, almost three months before his January 11 due date.

Ms Christo said she was booked to have Raiden at Werribee Mercy Hospital, so when her waters broke, she and her husband drove to the hospital.

When they arrived, she said they were told they would have to be transferred to another hospital because Werribee Mercy was not equipped to deliver, or care for, babies born earlier than a 32-week gestation.

“I didn’t even think we would … not be able to have him there,” Ms Christo said.

She said she gave birth at the Mercy Hospital for Women in Heidelberg and was transferred to Werribee Mercy about three weeks later.

Ms Christo said that although the Mercy Hospital for Women provided “fantastic” care for Raiden, she was concerned Wyndham did not have a hospital equipped to deliver babies born between 24 and 32 weeks.

She said that given Wyndham’s fast-growing population, it was a situation that needed to change.

“The fact there’s nothing here is incredible,” she said.

Werribee Mercy is undergoing an $85 million expansion but that will not change its inability to provide planned care for women who give birth before 32 weeks’ gestation.

Mercy Health chief executive – health services Linda Mellors said the Werribee hospital provided care for women and babies “requiring low to moderate risk care”.

“For some pregnant women and babies, changes and emergencies do occur,” Adjunct Professor Mellors said.

On those occasions, the Paediatric Infant Perinatal Emergency Retrieval – a 24-hour statewide service – can organise for mothers to be sent to Mercy Hospital for Women, Royal Women’s Hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Medical Centre, which provide level 5 and 6 care for babies.

A St Vincent’s Private Hospital Werribee spokeswoman said it transferred babies born at 36 weeks or earlier to its sister hospital in Fitzroy.

The state government was contacted for comment.