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Winnunga – midwife health team making a difference

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Midwives Carolyn Patterson (left) and Debbie Howroyd (right) attend to patient Anne-Marie Quinn(centre) with the assistance of Aboriginal access worker Pam Yealland(second from right).
The Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Services Aboriginal Midwifery Access Program( AMAP) was unique amongst Canberra’s baby health services, Winnunga CEO, Julie Tongs said today.

“It’s appropriate during International Midwives and Nurses Week that the beneficial impact of the program was acknowledged”, Ms Tongs added.

“The program saves lives. It is as simple as that.”

Ms Tongs said Winnunga was blessed to have a dedicated midwifery team of two qualified midwives and an Aboriginal access worker. “The work and dedication of this three person team of Carolyn Patterson, Debbie Howroyd and Pam Yealland is much appreciated by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community”.

“When the program began seven years ago it was miniscule and little known by the community. The underlying rationale for its creation was to encourage Aboriginal mothers to access ante natal care at an early stage.

“These days the community doesn’t have to be told about the program. People come to us not just from Canberra, but also Queanbeyan, Yass – and even Cooma.

“Last financial year, for example, it was pleasing to be able to say that 55 women enrolled in the AMAP program. Given that one of the main aims of the program was to encourage women to access treatment at an early stage, it was pleasing that 37 of those who enrolled presented in their first trimester. Sixteen others presented in their second trimester (12 to 24 weeks) and only two presented late in their pregnancies.

“Both of these were referrals from local hospitals”.

Ms Tongs emphasised that the team worked in ways she believed no other equivalent service in Canberra contemplated and was trusted and sought out by the community.

“By way of explanation ,clearly one of the reasons that the Winnunga program unique and particularly successful is the fact that we make sure that patients get continuity of care with a midwife that they trust. Also, because our philosophy is to provide holistic health care we have the ability to make sure that those who need other treatment receive it within Winnunga or are helped by our midwifery team to access treatment within the Canberra Hospital system.

“Additionally, we regularly have to organize transport for patients to access treatment while it is also a fact that the midwives and Aboriginal access worker more often than not come to deal with the whole family and regularly intervene and help in such matters as housing, overcrowding and other family related issues,” Ms Tongs said..

Ms Tongs added that in the 2005/06 financial year the midwifery team had:

.Attended a total of 589 antenatal checks (442 at Winnunga) and the remainder at Calvary and Canberra Hospitals
.Detected three cases of gestational diabetes (primarily due to the routine screening of patients for diabetes at the appropriate time in their pregnancy
.Detected a high rate of smokers – about 30 percent of patients
.Dealt with a number of premature births
.Seen a significant increase in the number of patients who were successfully breast feeding. Twenty eight of the patients breast fed their babies

“This is a health program that makes a difference”

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