No more local births

By Emma Prior

For over 70 years local babies have been delivered at the Yarrawonga Hospital but this will soon sadly be a thing of the past 

In January 2020 Yarrawonga Health will be suspending birthing services for pregnant women as the increasing challenges in recruiting enough skilled GPs required to support birthing in Yarrawonga has become onerous. 

“It will be a sad day for the health service when we suspend birthing as many local generations have delivered their babies here,” Yarrawonga Health CEO Elaine Mallows said.

“Yarrawonga Health very much recognises the importance of access to local pregnancy care and our role we play in our community in supporting new parents.”

Although losing the birthing service, Yarrawonga Health is planning to continue to provide maternity care and there will be no job losses as a result of this change.

“All our antenatal classes, clinics, postnatal care and domiciliary service will continue to be available to our community,” Ms Mallows said.

“Local mums will still be able to access antenatal care at Yarrawonga Health with our GP Obstetricians and midwives, before transferring to Northeast Health Wangaratta to birth.

“They will then be given the opportunity to return back to Yarrawonga Health shortly after birth for postnatal care services with our dedicated team of midwives and GPs.

“The safety of mothers and their babies, and the provision of safe and quality care always has to come first for our health service.”

No changes will be experienced immediately and education on maternity emergencies and management of unexpected birthing situations will remain. 

Local retiring obstetrician Dr Clyde Ronan who has delivered hundreds of babies at Yarrawonga Health over 36 years is sad to learn that babies will no longer be delivered at the hospital.

“I miss delivering babies,” Dr Ronan said. “So it is with a certain melancholy that I now have to accept that our hospital won’t be delivering babies from sometime soon and into the foreseeable future.  

“Falling delivery numbers due to a mismatch between the type of service we were able to safely offer and the requirements and expectations of the modern mothers was to inevitably lead to closure of our labour wards.”  

As reported in the Yarrawonga Chronicle last week, there is a shortage of rural GP Anaesthetics and GP Obstetricians across Australia with Dr Ronan expressing his disappointment on this issue. 

According to the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria, there are currently 192 GP vacancies in regional Victoria, compared to just five across Melbourne, which further amplifies the current imbalance between regional and metropolitan health services. 

The NSW Rural Doctors Network reported there are currently 252 GP vacancies across rural NSW.  

In Australian cities there is currently one clinician for every 243 people. Conversely, in the country they are much more thinly spread, with one clinician for every 357.  

“With the falling birth numbers we have been unable to retain and attract obstetrics qualified doctors,” Dr Ronan said.

“I delivered babies of my babies a few times, and that probably sent a signal that my time was almost up.  The sense of fulfilment when my babies grew up and played football or netball for the Pigeons, or went to uni, or had their own babies.”  

In 2018-2019 there were 26 babies born at Yarrawonga Health, with only women classified as low risk able to be supported in the birthing suite. Despite a growing population this number has reduced over the last decade where annual births at the hospital reached as high as 100.

In a statement provided by the hospital last week it stated; “The Board and Executive Team of Yarrawonga Health are also very disappointed to not be able to provide this service to allow local families to birth close to home and would like to thank their dedicated staff including the GP Obstetricians and midwives for the high-quality service they will undoubtedly continue to deliver in non-birthing maternity care”. 

For more information on the closure and services available please visit  

Write, email, phone or request a meeting via contacting Yarrawonga Health at 33 Piper Street Yarrawonga Victoria 3730, (03) 5743 8111.

Local Mums sad to see birthing go

Local mothers who have given birth at Yarrawonga Health have been saddened by the news that birthing services will be removed from the hospital.

Leesa Ednie

Lisa has given birth at Yarrawonga Health in 2012 and this year in 2019.

“It is quite sad that the maternity service will close,” Ms Ednie said.

“I’ve had two great experiences that I enjoyed.

“We live in Yarrawonga just down from the hospital; I am not thinking of having any more kids at the moment but I wouldn’t want to be travelling to give birth.   

“You form a relationship with the midwives then another midwife in Wangaratta delivers your baby which is a bit sad.”  

Tamara Daniel

Tamara is a mother of three from Burramin, delivered her last son at Yarrawonga Health and said the staff and facilities were above and beyond what she expected. 

“It is terribly sad for the community as it is a great hospital with lovely staff,” Ms Daniels said. 

“We need these services in small rural towns. It is sad when we have these facilities, but they are no longer able to run.

“The staff were lovely and supportive and went above and beyond what I expected.

“So many people benefit from the service.”