Another obstetrician has pulled the plug in Gladstone
GLADSTONE will lose another respected obstetrician this month after Dr Barbara Panitz decided to pursue another avenue of medicine.
Dr Panitz, who has practised obstetrics in Gladstone since January 1998, had been contemplating a move away from the field prior to the June announcement from Mercy Health and Aged Care Central Queensland the maternity service at Gladstone Mater Hospital would close on October 1.
Working out of the Gladstone GP Super Clinic, Dr Panitz had admitting rights to the Mater but also delivered babies at Gladstone Hospital earlier in her career.
Dr Panitz estimates to have delivered "a few thousand" babies during the past 20 years but she'll only add three more to that list due to the Mater maternity closure.
Her decision comes after the September 17 announcement by fellow obstetrician, Dr Adam Bush, he would be seeking employment options outside Gladstone as a result of the closure.
Gladstone Mater Hospital is operated by MHACCQ, which stated in June it had exhausted "all of our options to keep the service open".
"The number of births at Gladstone Mater has been declining for a number of years now and to run a successful maternity service you require a minimum number of births to ensure the viability of the service," MHACCQ chief executive Lynne Sheehan said.
"Unfortunately we are no longer reaching that level, with less than 10 births a month."
Dr Panitz said she was negotiating with Gladstone Hospital to care for her remaining patients at its maternity ward.
She was still feeling a sense of sadness and disappointment regarding the Gladstone Mater maternity ward, but could understand the decision.
"I've been grieving for it ever since June and there are times where I get quite teary and upset that it was a decision made for me by entities beyond my control," Dr Panitz said.
"I was having fewer ladies interested in private obstetric care before the Mater announced its closure, and that I think was due to the government policies around private health and how a lot of my patients feel they're not getting their money's worth out of it.
"I was already thinking before the Mater closed that I needed to do something to revive my obstetrics service because I was concerned I was seeing too few people to make it economically viable and to maintain my skills.
"When the Mater closed that was the death knell because a proportion of people who want me to look after them, want me to look after them because of my skills, expertise and longitudinal care, but a proportion of people also like the environment the Mater could offer.
"I still feel it's a waste of my skills, expertise and knowledge, but by the same token it's not a skill set I can instantly transfer across to the public hospital way of doing things because it's different."
Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service chief executive Steve Williamson said the service was "working very hard to ensure the public hospital is ready and able to cope with the resulting increased workload" and hoped to have an arrangement in place with private doctors finalised this week.
"We have been in discussions with the private doctors in Gladstone to explore options for the public hospital to work with them," Mr Williamson said.
"We will continue to work closely with the private doctors in Gladstone, however the overriding priority for our service is the safety and sustainability of our public hospital and health services.
"Gladstone Hospital is upgrading its maternity infrastructure to provide an even more comfortable environment for mothers and babies."
A Mercy Health representative said a liturgy was being held at the Mater Gladstone chapel from 11.30am today to pay tribute to its staff.
Meanwhile, Dr Panitz has revealed her next career move.
She was sceptical at first but is now optimistic her new career move will be a beneficial one.
About 10 years ago she began learning about the effects of diet and lifestyle on health and disease.
But it wasn't until she started developing arthritis in her hands as a result of Crohn's disease that she took action.
"I went to a conference called The Science of Nutrition in Medicine and Healthcare," she said.
"I thought the conference would be a lot of sitting around singing Kumbaya but it wasn't.
"It was science, it was statistics, peer values and biochemistry. I hadn't had to work that hard or think that hard about biochemistry, genetics and physiology since medical school and realised there was something in it.
"I've started a formal training program in that with the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine and I think my practice is going to move more towards looking at the root cause of illness and helping people manage their health through attention to diet and lifestyle."
Dr Panitz said to "watch this space" regarding her new avenue of medicine.