Chief Minister Katy Gallagher at Calvary Hospital. Photo: Andrew Sheargold
A major expansion of public maternity services at Calvary Hospital is being considered to relieve pressure on the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children at Woden.
Patients, midwives and obstetricians have complained that maternity services at the Centenary Hospital, which opened in August, are struggling to cope with demand.
Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher said discussions were under way with Calvary about increasing the number of public births in the Catholic Church-owned hospital at Bruce.
"We're talking to Calvary about the births they do because we're just seeing more and more women come to the public system,'' Ms Gallagher said.
She said the completion of stage 2 of the Centenary Hospital at Woden would create more maternity capacity but more birthing places were needed in north Canberra.
"The real focus has to be on Calvary. The Centenary Hospital is much more than a maternity hospital: it's doing paediatrics, it's doing women's outpatients, gynaecology.
"It will be right, it will be fine once it's finished as long as we manage growth on the north side for Molonglo and Gungahlin, which is where a lot of the growth is happening.''
The government had promised to build a two-bed midwife-led birth centre at Calvary but Ms Gallagher said this would not be sufficient on its own to meet future demand.
"I think over and above that we will need to increase public capacity at Calvary and I think they're winding back their private maternity,'' Ms Gallagher said.
In recent years, the government has blamed increased demand for public maternity services on the rising cost of giving birth in the private sector.
Calvary operates co-located public and private hospitals at Bruce. There has been a decline in the number of women giving birth at Calvary Private which could increase the capacity for Calvary Public to offer additional services if additional government funding was made available.
Calvary chief executive Ray Dennis said between 120 and 140 babies were being born in his hospital each month and the government had funded more births than had originally been budgeted for.
Mr Dennis said the hospital had the ability to offer more public services in a range of areas, including maternity.
"Even without any additional build we can realise additional bed capacity within our existing footprint,'' he said.
Mr Dennis also said it made sense for more public birthing services to be offered at Calvary because of the high number of young couples and families in nearby Gungahlin, while the construction of more northern suburbs had increased demand for services at the hospital.
"More and more people are seeing Calvary as their preferred site - preferred for I don't think any other reason than they live on the north side and it's the most immediate public hospital to get their services from,'' he said.
Before the election in October, Labor promised to spend an additional $63 million on Calvary, including opening a further 64 beds.