More complaints uncovered about vaginal examinations after hospital's denial

There have been five documented complaints about unauthorised vaginal examinations at Canberra Hospital since January 2018, despite the Health Minister previously denying the hospital had received any.

The issue was brought to light earlier this year when a hospital midwife made a submission to a current Legislative Assembly inquiry into ACT's maternity services alleging vaginal examinations were at times performed without a woman's full consent.

Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Canberra Health Services fiercely denied the claim, labelling the midwife's claims misleading and unfair and criticising The Canberra Times' story about the submission.

Ms Fitzharris told the ACT Parliament at the time she had been informed by Canberra Hospital executives there had been no consumer complaints as alleged by the midwife.

Ms Fitzharris on Thursday told ACT's Parliament there had in fact been five complaints received by the hospital since January 2018 - three last year and two so far this year.

She said none of the complaints - some of which were anonymous - had so far been substantiated

But she maintained she was "concerned" the midwife's allegations - published on the ACT Legislative Assembly website - were reported in The Canberra Times and made "public".

"I want to make it clear if any women in our community feel they have not been given adequate care or given consent during their hospital stay they should feel comfortable to come and discuss concerns with the hospital and or the Health Services Commission or indeed make a submission to the inquiry," she said in Parliament.

Ms Fitzharris said there were a range of different views between obstetricians and midwives when it came to pregnancy, birth and maternity practices.

Opposition Health Spokeswoman Vicki Dunne said Ms Fitzharris was trying to downplay the fact she provided information to the Parliament which was wrong.

"Back in February when this anonymous complaint was made, I think the staff at Canberra Hospital acted absolutely and completely appropriately and in an extremely timely fashion," Mrs Dunne said.

"There was less than an hour from when the complaint was made to when a senior nurse in the birthing centre sent out a reminder to staff about these issues.

"I think the minster has done them a great disservice to try to downplay and claiming that no such event took place."The minister did them a disservice by saying 'there's nothing to see here'."

Mrs Dunne said Ms Fitzharris politicised the issue instead of investigating the concerns.

"She went out tough and hard and said it didn't happen," she said.

"For her to come in and have to say there have been five incidences and then to blame the media and opposition ...because she was caught out.

"She took bad advice."