Expecting mothers from Weipa and the Western Cape will be able to give birth locally this time next year as work begins on the upgrade of Weipa Hospital.
Around $8.86 million worth of upgrades are under way, or about to start, at the Weipa Hospital and scheduled for completion in the coming months.
The work includes a refurbishment of the medical imaging department to house Weipa’s first CT scanner, the creation of a new primary healthcare clinic and the establishment of the long-awaited birthing centre.
The work on the new CT scanner space is expected to be completed and the scanner operational by late March, subject to the timely arrival of the scanner from interstate.
Work on the primary healthcare clinic is scheduled for completion later this month and operational by early April.
A government spokeswoman confirmed that Weipa’s much-anticipated new birthing suite was expected to be completed in early 2022 with the first local births occurring soon after.
The new birthing unit will be located adjacent to an existing ward, as well as the hospital operating theatre.
“The coming months will mark many milestones for Weipa HIS,” the spokeswoman said.
“Apart from the work preparing the ground for the new CT scanner, primary healthcare clinic and birthing suite, we will also be upgrading the hospital air-conditioning and chiller systems, as well as relocating and upgrading the hospital pharmacy and the renal dialysis unit.
“The pharmacy work will be completed by late February and the new renal dialysis unit in March.
“All these works represent a major investment in Weipa hospital and the Weipa community. Once complete they will deliver a significant upgrade in clinical capacity at the hospital.’’
The CT scanner project, which was announced last year, has been funded by a $1.15 million partnership between Rio Tinto and Old Mapoon Aboriginal Corporation, together with a $1.35 million contribution from the state government.
“The new CT scanner means between 40 and 50 patients a month from Weipa and the wider Western Cape region will no longer need to travel out of the region for clinical investigation,’’ the spokeswoman said.
“With the scanner on site, Weipa doctors and visiting specialists can perform more services here in Weipa.
“This will allow the continued delivery of high-quality health care within the Western Cape region and faster access to potentially lifesaving scans for cancer, stroke and other medical conditions.’’
Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service chief executive Beverley Hamerton said she wanted to thank Rio Tinto and the Old Mapoon Aboriginal Corporation for their strong and ongoing support of the Weipa CT scanner project.
“Both Rio Tinto and OMAC are strong, community-minded organisations and their contributions and support of the CT scanner project will benefit the Weipa and wider Cape York communities for many years to come,’’ she said.
Ms Hamerton said the introduction of a CT scanning service at Weipa would help attract and retain staff, while also increasing the self-sufficiency of the Weipa Integrated Health Service.
A full-time radiographer had been recruited to support the new service and there would also be opportunities for upskilling First Nations staff to support the CT scanner and other services, she said.
For the birthing unit, an additional two doctors, five midwives, two health workers and an administrative officer will be recruited by the time the unit is fully operational early next year.
“There will also be increases in the number of general nursing, operational, administrative and allied health staffing at Weipa to support the new birthing and other services,” Ms Hamerton said.
“The birthing unit will deliver up to 70 babies a year, servicing Cape communities including Weipa, Aurukun, Coen, Kowanyama, Lockhart River, Mapoon and Pormpuraaw. Women with higher risk pregnancies will continue to travel to Cairns.’’
Member for Cook Cynthia Lui, who hasn’t travelled to this part of the Cape for 544 days, said that local families deserved the best care possible.
“This new birthing unit will mean expectant women in these communities will not have to travel to Cairns to have their babies. They can have their babies closer to home, which we know is a preference among First Nations women,” she said.
[Cape York Weekly] Editor’s note: It’s time for the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service staff to start looking at a major extension of the car park at Weipa Hospital, which is overcrowded and becoming a hazard for both staff and patients.
This article appeared in Cape York Weekly, 22 February 2021.