Queensland's health minister is blaming a shortage of doctors rather than a lack of funding for a maternity bypass preventing mothers giving birth in Gladstone, with the issue expected to persist until mid-year.
The central Queensland facility has been on maternity bypass for more than six months, with the government saying that will continue until another four obstetricians can be recruited, which will likely be mid-2023.
The bypass is preventing most women giving birth in the city of 63,515 people, unless by elective caesarean, and they instead have to drive more than 100km to Rockhampton when they go into labour.
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath says it would be unsafe to restart full birthing services at Gladstone until all 10 obstetrician positions are filled at the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service.
"What would be unacceptable is if we sought to bring those services back online in an unsafe way, we cannot do that," she told reporters on Wednesday.
"I have to take the advice as the minister in ensuring that these services are reintroduced in a safe way. I'm being told that we need 10 full-time equivalents across Rockhampton and Gladstone."
Local health authorities have been trying to recruit obstetricians but face intense competition because of shortages of specialist doctors domestically and internationally.
"It's not about dollars," Ms D'Ath said.
"If it was that simple, we would have the obstetricians there. It is about a lack of obstetricians nationally right now and particular challenges at that hospital due to personal circumstances and a range of reasons why other obstetricians who were there had to move on."
Gladstone mother Jemma Manwaring from the Save Gladstone Maternity Ward group said it was a money issue, calling on the government to commit funding for 600 births in Gladstone every year.
She said she couldn't find evidence of any obstetrician roles being advertised in Gladstone or Rockhampton and bristled that the minister had denied knowing local mothers wanted to meet her.
Ms Manwaring said she had written to Ms D'Ath's office, which said a response to her request would be up to the minister.
"Either she's lying in saying that she hasn't got any awareness of meeting requests, or her staff are not telling her that there are these meeting requests," Ms Manwaring said in a Facebook video on Thursday afternoon.
"Either way, it's gross incompetence and they're the people who are leading our health services in Queensland, which is really concerning."