After 25 years, birthing suite available for rural mums

For 25 years, women in Queensland's Cape York Peninsula have travelled more than 800km in their last month of pregnancy to access maternity services.

But that is all about to change.

Weipa Hospital's new birthing services will open on May 22, delivering access to expectant mothers both in the hospital and on country who otherwise had to trek to the nearest facility in Cairns.

Weipa Hospital
Women will have access to a purpose-built birthing unit with two rooms and a birthing pool. (Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service/AAP PHOTOS)

Travelling during the last month of pregnancy - or if suffering early complications - has caused disruption for mums, their partners and families for decades in the far north region.

Alex Dunn worked as a doctor in Weipa for seven years and two of his daughters were born during that time, with his family forced to travel to Cairns for maternity services like every other resident.

"Across the board, everyone has to leave town," the Rural Doctors' Association Queensland president told AAP.

It can have a significant impact on families to leave their home and not have local access to antenatal and postnatal care.

But it can have even more of an effect on First Nations families.

"For First Nations families who want a baby born on country and have strongly held beliefs about that, it can be quite traumatic," Weipa midwifery director Michelle O'Connor said.

Continuity of relationship-based care between an expectant mum and her midwife delivers better birth outcomes including preventing preterm labour or low birth weight and increasing vaginal births, Ms O'Connor said.

Around 60 per cent of women in the Western Cape will be eligible to access Weipa birthing services.

Women with high-risk pregnancies will still have to travel to Cairns.

A purpose-built birthing unit with two rooms, a birthing pool, and consistent access to a midwife with antenatal and postnatal care will now be available for Weipa as part of the government's $42 million boost to maternity services.

"It's a massive achievement for Weipa to get this up and going," Dr Dunn said.

"Too often we hear about rural maternity services as a service in crisis but to get one up and running should be celebrated."

Alex Dunn
Rural Doctors' Association Queensland president Alex Dunn is excited about the new facility. (Rural Doctors' Association Queensland/AAP PHOTOS)

Women are already excited about the new service, Ms O'Connor said, with much anticipation for the first birth at the facility.

"This new service will ensure more choice and safe access to maternity care for expectant mums in the Western Cape region," Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said.

Dr Dunn said the long wait for a birthing service to return to Weipa came down to recruiting a stable workforce and infrastructure in the remote area.

"You also need to deliver really good all round medical care both in the community and the hospital environment before you can take that next step," he said.

Biloela and Cooktown have been flagged as the next spots for maternity support.