It is a sad fact about Australian healthcare that those in rural and remote areas do not have access to the same level of healthcare as those who live in major cities.
The medical negligence team at Turner Freeman was sad to hear of Claire’s (not her real name) story reported by the abc. Claire lives in Narrabri and was pregnant with her second child. She reported to her general practitioner that she felt a reduction in fetal movements when she was three days away from being full-term. She was told to contact the midwives at the local hospital if she had any issues. Claire contacted the midwives a few hours late. She was told it was normal to experience a reduction in fetal movements so close to term. The next day, Claire went to the local hospital. She was told to have an ultrasound, but the only ultrasound sonographer in Narrabri was on holidays and so she was told to drive half an hour to Wee Waa. Claire’s baby had sadly died in utero. You can read the article here.
The Australian Institute of Health & Welfare reports that mothers in areas outside of major cities have higher rates of stillbirths and neonatal deaths than those who live in major cities. However, what we don’t know is why mothers in areas outside of major cities have such higher rates. This is because current reporting obligations do not require hospitals to report “contributing factors” to stillbirth.
Higher rates of stillbirth and neonatal death may be due to lack of access to healthcare, poor resources and preventable factors such as maternal health or healthcare negligence. In our view, this represents a missed opportunity for increasing the health status of women in these areas. It also represents a missed opportunity for accountability of medical practitioners who do not follow guidelines and policies.
In order to establish negligence has occurred in a medical setting, you must show that a practitioner or hospital has breached their duty of care which in turn caused some damage or harm.
The medical negligence team at Turner Freeman has assisted numerous women in relation to claims arising from poor treatment during pregnancy and labour. We know from our experience that there are unique issues which affect women in rural settings. Sadly, we know that people in rural areas have access to less healthcare resources. In addition, we know that people who live in rural areas often face long transfer times to major cities to access tertiary hospitals and medical facilities. In a maternity situation, time is critical and delays can have devastating outcomes.
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If you are considering bringing a medical negligence claim, it is important to obtain legal advice from solicitors who specialise in medical negligence. Turner Freeman has a team of experienced lawyers across NSW who specialise in medical law claims.