The below article is written by the lovely Karen Marshall, one of the two founding Birth Centre Midwives. Through the course of preparations for Friends of the Birth Centre's 20 year Celebrations, we have uncovered some very interesting information, however one thing has always remained constant - the women of South East Queensland worked together to make the Birth Centre a reality, and 20 years on, we are still united in our cause.
We would like to thank Karen for sharing this amazing account below:
RBWH Birth Centre & Friends of the Birth Centre - A History
By Karen Marshall
The Birth Centre at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital was set up in early 1995, originally a small Birth Centre consisting of 4 rooms which was situated at the end of Ward M17 in the old Royal Women’s Hospital. It originated out of community lobbying for a family-centred birthing unit after the closure of Boothville Hospital (a small private hospital at Windsor which offered private GP or Obstetric care within a homely environment which included a large postnatal room where families stayed after the new baby’s birth) .
At the time staff restructuring meant one charge position in the RWH Labour Ward was to go, and Margaret Fien who was Joint Charge Midwife in the RWH Labour Ward was asked by the late Rhonda Middleton (Nursing Director RWH) to look into the feasibility of setting up a Birth Centre at RWH. After some research and visits to some recently established Birth Centre in Southern States, a proposal for a Birth Centre was taken to the Hospital Board and approved. The princely some of $17,000 was allocated and renovations commenced. Two three bed bays where converted to single rooms, a normal size bath was added to the room, and bathroom given a very basic revamp and the two now birth centre room were furnished. Two single rooms were converted to a lounge room/parents room area and an office/antental visiting room. Both of these rooms kept the original shower/toilet within the room. The rooms were equipped mostly from begging /borrowing and imaginative discovery from other areas.
The Early Years
A few of these women birthed in the Labour Ward with Marg and I, but finally on 12th June 1995 , the first baby was born at the Birth Centre (Holly Williams). Both Marg and I were present for Holly’s birth and were ecstatic to be offering families continuity of care with a known midwife.
A couple of GP’s (Maria Nandam and Charlie Elliot) who had used Boothville for their clients also had access to the birth centre and a few families who had previously birthed with these GP’s used this option (in conjunction with Birth Centre midwives) for their care.
With the next year mostly from word of mouth, this model of care became very popular and more midwives, Renee Coker, Jane Stanfield and Meredyth Sauer joined the Birth Centre with Cia Moroney recruited as holiday reliever. Places at the Birth Centre became sort after and a ballot system was established, and a waiting list was in place. The Birth Centre continued with these midwives, (Marg, Renee, Jane, Meredyth, Cia and myself) for a number of years and operated on a pure caseload midwifery model with each midwife allocated their own clients. A few women also attended using private obstetric care ( in conjunction with Birth Centre midwives) in the early years.
Birth Centre Midwife Jo Fisher, with Birth Centre Mum Bec, and her daughter
The Start of Friends of the Birth Centre
Sensing that this new model of care would need consumer support, a public meeting was called by the midwives, and from this consumer meeting, Friends of the Birth Centre came into being in 1995 and has continued since offering parent groups, lobby groups ,consumer representation and fundraising.
The original Birth Centre continued to operate at the end of Ward M17 (women who had complications in labour had to be transferred across a long walkway to the main building which housed the labour ward ) and another 3 bed room was commandeered from M17 and a third birth room was added around 1998, this time with a big round bath. The Birth Centre had been offering water immersion in labour since its inception and water births since 26th May 1996 when Cara Wass birthed her daughter Zoe in the ordinary bath.
In the early years women stayed in the Birth Centre for 24 hours after birth, thus the two birth rooms were often being used and a number of babies were born in the parents lounge bathrooms, on a mattress on the office floor, or in the shower in the office/consulting room, (any place which had privacy) when women arrived in very established labour and there was no time to vacate the birth rooms.
In 2003 with the building of a new hospital, the old RWH was closed down and eventually demolished, and the Royal Women’s Hospital was amalgamated with the Royal Brisbane Hospital to become the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and a new Birth Centre was opened in this new hospital, this time with 4 birth rooms, 2 dedicated consulting rooms, a parents lounge and a staff office, and continues in this space currently.
The Birth Centre Today
three midwives and the addition of a small group team in the last few years.
It is testament to the model of care that that there tends to be longevity in years of service to the birth centre, with many of the midwives staying for long periods of their careers.
Currently many of the midwives (Anne Clarke, Tania Nairn, Marion Lengronne, Elaine Barrett, Jo Fisher ) have more then 10 years of service at the Birth Centre.
I have been privileged to be part of this team since with Birth Centre’s inception in 1995 and have cared for many families at the Birth Centre in this time, a number of whom have birthed 3 and 4 children at the Birth Centre. It is difficult to estimated how many births I have attended at the Birth Centre (probably around 800) but it has been an honour to be able to be part of such a team of wonderful midwives over the last 20 years.
Our FBC Committee Members will keep you updated on the various fundraising, consumer representative and information events they participate in during the year.