Outcomes for babies born at Bendigo Health are on par or better than the state average, but Bendigo mums-to-be are lighting up at rates higher than others across Victoria.
Babies born at Bendigo Health at 32 weeks gestation or more were 18 per cent less likely to die than the state average. Those born at 22 weeks or more were 4 per cent more likely to die.
The state’s worst-performing hospital for infant mortality was Hamilton, where babies were 80 per cent more likely to die than the state average.
The ratios were revealed in a recently released report, measuring maternal health indicators in 2012/2013.
Bendigo did not perform as well in terms of maternal smoking rates – about 16 per cent of mothers to be continued smoking after 20 weeks gestation, well up on the state average of approximately 7 per cent.
Only about 2 per cent of Echuca mums-to-be continued to smoke during pregnancy, while things were less promising in Maryborough where 19 per cent continued to light up.
Ten per cent of women who gave birth at Castlemaine Health continued to smoke.
Bendigo was also behind the pack in terms of breastfeeding initiation in hospital.
About 90 per cent of babies born at Bendigo Health were breastfed for the first time in hospital, putting it in the “least favourable” category for that indicator.
Across the state, 94 per cent of babies started breastfeeding in hospital.
About 34 per cent of babies born in Bendigo at 37 weeks gestation or more were fed infant formula in hospital.
Elsewhere in the region, 10 per cent of Maryborough infants received formula in hospital, while Castlemaine was the best performing hospital in the state, with only 2 per cent fed formula in hospital.
President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Michael Permezel said while the infant mortality ratio results could be caused by deficiencies in care and a shortage of resources, particularly in growth areas, they could also reflect unavoidable factors such as obesity and smoking among pregnant women.
"Each hospital should know where it stands and have good reasons for why it stands there," he said.
"Some hospitals have particularly low socio-economic status which we know is associated with high rates of perinatal death.”