Victorian Infant and maternal health checks suspended
The recent announcement by the Victorian state government to suspend infant and maternal health checks undertaken through Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services until March 11 2022 has been met with disbelief. The announcement included the reason for the need to do so due to the redeployment of specialist Maternal and Child Health Nurses (MCHNs) to Victorian hospitals as part of the response to COVID and Code Brown.
In her response to this latest crises to hit the health system, CEO Dr Weber was asked for her insights into what this might mean for mothers and their babies.
“Who has eyes on children and their developmental needs?” Dr Weber said. “We don’t want them becoming vulnerable, that’s the point of a universal service.”
Anyone who has experienced with Maternal and Child Health Services know how important this is as is often the first point of contact for a new mum and her baby in not only being connected to a health professional with the wisdom and knowledge to support them, but also an MCH nurse is also an important source of information into local community services including playgroups, peer support groups for mothers, and referrals for babies and children into other professional services as the need arises.
The history of MCHN services can be traced back to 1917 when the first Victorian baby health clinic was established in Richmond with the purpose to reduce the high death rate of babies in industrial inner suburbs. The free service also included advise on breastfeeding, hygienic preparation of milk and what was described back in the day as mothercraft
The purpose of the service was to reduce the alarmingly high death rate of babies in the industrial inner city suburbs of Melbourne. Free practical advice was provided to mothers on nutrition, breastfeeding, hygienic preparation of milk, and mothercraft skills including growth and development, behaviour, maternal health, routines and parenting strategies.
Even as Code Brown restrictions begin to ease, concerns are still very real of the limitations in access to services due to restrictions created by workforce capability issues as some local government authorities are still in restrictions in not being able to provide services to infants and children over 12 months of age.
The Society continues to advocate for the reinstatement of services and the vital role MCHNs play in the social, health and wellbeing recovery for women and their children.