Posted on December 9, 2004

Costello’s Baby Boom On The Way

Danielle Cronin, Canberra Times, Dec. 8

Calvary Hospital is bracing for a baby boom nine months after the Federal Government announced its $3000 baby bonus.

Canberra women have apparently heeded Treasurer Peter Costello’s call to do their “patriotic duty” and procreate, but the impending rush of births is creating headaches for two Canberra hospitals.

A Calvary Hospital internal memo outlines an urgent contingency plan to deal with an estimated 30 per cent increase in births in January.

Management is advised to open more birthing rooms, roster on more experienced midwives, organise more machines to monitor newborns, increase supplies in stores such as the pharmacy and alert affected staff.

“If the recommendations are not actioned, the staff at Calvary Maternity Unit will be unable to provide safe service for women booked here,” according to the document obtained by The Canberra Times.

Calvary Hospital chief executive Robert Cusack said yesterday that plans were in place to cope with the demand in January.

Management had acted on key recommendations, including employing two more midwives, providing two more machines to monitor babies and opening the special-care nursery every day.

Treasurer Peter Costello offered a $3000 baby bonus in the May Budget to entice couples to perform their “patriotic duty”.

“You should have . . . one for your husband and one for your wife and one for the country,” Mr Costello said.

“Whether it’s a coincidence or not, this occurring nine months after the Budget announcement of the new maternity payment, I welcome the baby boom in Canberra.

“I hope the new $3000 maternity payment will help all of these mums with their new babies.”

Calvary Hospital is bracing for an inundation of newborns, with 183 births booked in for January.

This is 44 more deliveries than the monthly average and up to 13 extra Caesarean sections, bringing the total to 55 for the month.

John James Memorial Hospital chief executive Dr Phil Lowen said more than 100 women were booked in to give birth at the private hospital during January which was a 10 per cent increase.

In contrast, 147 women were expected to give birth at Canberra Hospital in January compared with 181 births in the same period this year.

An ACT obstetrician, Dr Andrew Foote, said population growth in the northern suburbs of Gungahlin had probably prompted the boom at Calvary Hospital.

His gut feeling was the $3000 baby bonus had not swayed these couples, though the payment came at a critical time for new parents.

The Commonwealth Government’s baby bonus and Medicare safety net — to help patients pay high health bills — meant there was never a better time to have a baby.

Dr Foote had 30 women booked in to give birth in January, 30 per cent more than in January this year.

The father of five offered his own version of the Treasurer’s rallying cry to procreate.

“I would say have one for the mum, one for the dad, one for the country and one for the obstetrician,” he said.