Transcript - Interview - ABC Radio Canberra, Mornings with Georgia Stynes

GEORGIA STYNES, HOST: Now to pursue an issue that we’ve been looking into this morning on Mornings, Hannah Head much earlier this morning with Adam Shirley was talking about the $4.7 million in the budget for Yass maternity services, and we’ve been trying to speak to the Member for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain, about this, and she’s available now, so we thank her so much for making time. What more can you tell us, Kristy, about what this new funding, the $4.7 million, will mean for the long-running case to fully restore maternity services back to Yass Valley?

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Good morning, it’s great to be with you. The Yass community have long run a campaign to restore maternity services in Yass. We’re taking a step in that direction with this announcement. We’ll be working with New South Wales Health to make sure that we can deliver more maternity services into Yass Hospital, with continuity of pre- and post-natal care, which is incredibly important. We need to have some ongoing conversations about the future of the Yass Hospital. We know it’s a fast-growing part of the electorate and of the entire region, so we need to make sure that we’ve got a hospital capable of dealing with that change in population that we’ve got coming.

STYNES: Yeah, Kristy, I go back and forth between Yass Valley. It’s been a home region for me and it remains a home region for members of my family. And you just can’t miss the scale of the development, the huge housing estates that are being built on the southern approach to Yass and around Murrumbateman, the continued growth. So, just how far can you stretch $4.7 million in a place like Yass Hospital? Is that just a couple of beds?

MCBAIN: It will redevelop a part of the hospital to have some consultation rooms and some meeting space. We want more discreet and secure places for women going through pregnancy, and also after they give birth to be able to have those direct consultations with service providers, with community health, with local GPs on the site. We’ll continue to work with New South Wales on what a future expansion of maternity services looks like across the Yass Valley.

STYNES: So, how soon might women, girls and families across Yass Valley and surrounds, noting that hospital serves a large area and also reduces some of the pressures on the ACT’s hospital system– how soon could we see increased services in the town of Yass at the hospital, then? It’s sounding like it could be some years off.

MCBAIN: What we’re looking at now, working with New South Wales Health, is redeveloping a couple of spaces so that we can get that pre- and post-natal care back as soon as possible. I know that the Southern Local Area Health District CEO will be in Yass next week to discuss a range of things with the Community Consultative Committee and also with local council. We are looking at trying to get those maternity services back as soon as possible.

STYNES: Redeveloping spaces in the grounds of Yass Hospital or elsewhere in Yass?

MCBAIN: Within the grounds of the Yass hospital. This is the first step in returning maternity services in full into the future, but we need to have the larger conversation about how we cater for the growing population out there, which I know is at the forefront of the Local Health Board’s mind.

STYNES: I’m sure residents have been lobbying and calling for this for decades, the restoration of these services. So, will this decrease the number of women giving birth en route to Canberra? People like Councillor Jasmin Jones, who famously gave birth to one of her babies on the side of the Barton Highway? Surely, we can only have so many babies called Barton.

MCBAIN: It’s really important that there is that continuity of care there. That we actually reduce the number of trips that people have to make into and out of Canberra during that pre-natal care when they are going through their pregnancy. At this stage, birthing will not happen back in Yass, but that pre- and post-natal care will happen there. We want to make sure that the level of service provided around the birth is increased. We need to make sure that people are getting the best advice and they don’t have to travel far from home during that period, which can be a little bit rocky, as many women out there would know. This is one way that we can make sure that we’re getting that expert advice happening back in the local community.

STYNES: Kristy McBain, what would it take, though, to restore birthing in Yass? How much would that cost?

MCBAIN: That’s the next question. Yass is growing quite rapidly, and what we really need to do is start having some conversations about whether the current site is going to be fit for purpose into the future. We know that there’s been significant growth on the southern side of Yass, as well as in Murrumbateman. The Yass Hospital site at the moment is quite constrained where it is. We need to have some conversations around Yass’ growth, and whether this is going to be the best site for a hospital in the future. If not, where else could we locate one? If we are going to do something more substantial with a new hospital, are we going to return maternity services? I’m sure the community would be in favour of.

STYNES: So, more questions than answers. To what extent will wages mop up a lot of that $4.7 million in the Federal Budget? Just briefly.

MCBAIN: There’s obviously some capital works that will be happening on site, but we are making sure that we’ve got people available in Yass to provide those services, so there will be money going back into the human resources to provide this service.

STYNES: And just finally, the water issue, the ongoing Yass water drama. Is there any new funding in the Federal Budget that you’re aware of that might help the residents of Yass Valley, across that huge area, have more confidence in their drinking water?

MCBAIN: The National Water Grid Fund is the funding mechanism for dealing with town water supply. When we came to government, we made a change to the criteria. Previously, it only helped irrigated land. We’ve changed that, so it would also help tame water supply. We’re working with the NSW government and the local council to make sure that their application will make it into the next round of the National Water Grid Funding.

STYNES: Kristy McBain, thank you so much for your time this morning and fitting us in. We appreciate it.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Lovely chatting.