New dedicated unit for Early Pregnancy Service

The ACT Government is continuing to invest in important services for women and families, with the opening of a new dedicated unit for the Early Pregnancy Service and a refurbished Antenatal and Gynaecology Unit at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the new Early Pregnancy Service unit is a dedicated three-bed inpatient facility offering care to women and pregnant people experiencing early pregnancy complications, including early pregnancy loss.

"There are approximately 500 admissions to Canberra Health Services each year for miscarriage or early pregnancy complications, but until now there has not been a dedicated facility to provide this specialised care.

"This new unit will provide women, pregnant people and their families with the support and care required during an incredibly difficult and emotional time. The unit integrates a new model of care to provide more holistic support and care to patients.

"It is a therapeutic, healing space where patients can receive the care they need from a highly skilled and multidisciplinary team. It will support overnight stays and importantly provides separate treatment spaces and a separate waiting area," said Minister Stephen-Smith.

This new dedicated unit responds to consumer feedback received through the Inquiry into Maternity Services in the ACT and is a key action in the Maternity in Focus Plan launched last year.

"Many women and their families shared their experiences to help us build a better, person- and baby-centred maternity care system. The new unit is a direct result of what we have heard.

"Input from consumers, carers and clinicians has been invaluable in ensuring the design of this new unit will meet the needs of women and pregnant people receiving care.

"In particular, Karen Schlage has been a powerful voice for women and families experiencing early pregnancy loss. Drawing on her own lived experiences, research and conversations with other women and families, Karen has played an important role in ensuring Centenary Hospital offers both the emotional support and clinical care people need at these difficult times. On behalf of the Canberra community, I thank her for her continued advocacy," said Minister Stephen-Smith.

Mrs Schlage said it is a day of mixed emotions, feeling quietly proud of the improvement in care this service will deliver for local women and families, while also reflecting on the loss of her children Charlie and Sophia.

"Thank you to all those involved in establishing the Early Pregnancy Service, for genuinely implementing improvements to care based on lived experience.

"To the women and families who made submissions to the Maternity Inquiry regarding pregnancy loss and to those who have spoken with me privately about their experiences – thank you so much. You have made this day possible.

"This new unit honours your courage in telling your stories. It reflects the love we will always feel for our babies and pays tribute to the devastating losses we have all experienced. May the care delivered through this service provide help and comfort to other families in their time of loss," Mrs Schlage said.

A newly refurbished 15-bed Antenatal and Gynaecology Unit will also open in the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.

The relocation of the Antenatal and Gynaecology Unit will provide an opportunity for the opening of a new Postnatal Ward, which will double postnatal bed capacity at the hospital later this year.

As the unit is located adjacent to the Early Pregnancy Service, there will be a strong integration between the services. This will enable staff to work across both spaces and flex up and down each service as needed.

These upgrades form part of the $50 million expansion of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. The next stage of the Centenary Hospital Expansion Project will be the opening of the new Postnatal Ward, with works also continuing on the Adolescent Mental Health Unit. Both units are due to open later this year.

The expansion project has also delivered an eight-bed Maternity Assessment Unit, Gynaecology Day Unit, as well as negative and positive pressure rooms for children at high risk of infection.

"These investments reflect the ACT Government's commitment to improving public maternity services, supporting our workforce and better meeting the needs of families in the ACT and surrounding region," said Minister Stephen-Smith.

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