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Final baby born at North Eastern Community Hospital

An Adelaide hospital has welcomed its final baby after announcing it would close its maternity ward.

Feb 27, 2024, updated Feb 28, 2024
Staff from the North Eastern Community Hospital's maternity unit with Hannah McCarthy, who gave birth to the ward's final baby before it closes in March. Photo: supplied

Staff from the North Eastern Community Hospital's maternity unit with Hannah McCarthy, who gave birth to the ward's final baby before it closes in March. Photo: supplied

The Campbelltown hospital announced in January that the ward would close on March 2, blaming rising liability insurance risks and costs and a declining birth rate.

Aston James McDonald took the title of the last baby to be born in the ward, following in the tiny footsteps of more than 25,000 delivered since the ward opened in 1973.

The second child to parents Hannah McCarthy and James McDonald, Aston’s older sister was also born in the ward where their grandmother Annis Garlick worked as a midwife for 33 years.

“I have spent half of my life working on this floor,” Garlick said.

“When I learned that my second grandchild was going to be born here as the last birth at NECH, it was a big surprise. I am very grateful because I know this place. Sad it is the last, it is a very special place.”

Staff were told in January that the maternity ward would close, with midwives and nurses being moved into other areas of the hospital or, in some cases, to other hospitals.

Dr Neil Tamlin, who delivered Aston, said staff were sad to see the ward close but he was looking forward to moving to Burnside Private Hospital, where a number of NECH staff will be working.

Obstetrician Dr Chris Hughes has been associated with NECH for 27 years and is leaving with mixed feelings.

“Part of that is sadness as through my career I have been able to deliver babies in the community where they live,” he said.

“Birthing should be seen as a community activity.”

When announcing the ward’s impending closure, NECH board chair Michael Auciello said the board could not justify the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars for insurance for a service used by about 20 local families a month.

“Our team have excelled in their birthing role for our community, but our efforts must now be focussed on ensuring we are well placed to deliver in other areas of higher need for our community members,” Auciello said.

Other women’s health services including gynaecology will still be offered at the hospital, with planning underway for an ophthalmology suite expected to cost more than $500,000.

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