Castlemaine Health's maternity services would likely close in less than 18 months unless the organisation adopts recommendations contained in an independent review.
A review into Castlemaine Health's maternity services began in May after the hospital "temporarily paused" birthing services to review its policies, procedures and processes.
The review has been completed and a report containing recommendations to ensure the return of services as soon as possible was accepted and endorsed by the board of management at a meeting on Monday night.
Held virtually, the meeting was attended by the GP obstetricians, members of the public and Safer Care Victoria.
Board chair Margaret Ronnau said the report is clear that the maternity service will likely close in 12-18 months unless the organisation fully commits to making the changes recommended.
"Nobody wants to see that happen," she said."The review recommends a new model of maternity care, along with new clinical and governance processes.
"The reviewers have advised that, due to concerns about the potential risks associated with the current model of care, the service remain suspended until the key recommendations are addressed."
The report contains the findings and recommendations of a review of the procedures, policies, clinical practice protocols and maternity clinical governance systems that determine the capacity, capability and safety of the maternity service.
Castlemaine Health chief executive Ian Fisher said everyone involved is committed to reopening the maternity service as soon as possible.
"The expert advice is clear that implementing the recommendations is necessary to achieve this and establish a maternity service that is around for generations to come," he said. "I urge the local community not to lose sight of the bigger picture."
Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said Department of Health & Human Services, Safer Care Victoria and Bendigo Health would work with Castlemaine Health to implement the recommendations.
"This includes strengthening communication between Bendigo Health and Castlemaine Health by exchanging clinical skills, mentoring and developing specialist links," she said.
"With collaboration, co-operation and additional resources the new model of care can be delivered in a timely manner and maternity services at Castlemaine Health can be reinstated as soon as possible.
"I understand that every effort is being made to support the women who are due to give birth during the time it will take to establish the new model of care.
"Finally, I want to make it very clear that this is a temporary pause in maternity services at Castlemaine Health and that everything is and will be done to ensure a return of the service as soon as possible."
The state government will provide $100,000 to establish two new positions, including a maternity services director and a project manager to help the board work towards resuming birthing services as soon as possible.
A governance committee will be established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations.
The state government will also fund a $180,000 cardiotocography (CTG) electronic foetal monitoring system remotely linked to Bendigo Health to ensure extra oversight and support.
The reopening of services will be guided by the progress of the implementation plan.
"We are aware of the difficulty that this prolonged suspension of birthing has on the community," Mr Fisher said. "We understand that the weight of this difficulty falls disproportionately on those due to birth with us. To those women and their families, and to our community, we convey our sincerest apologies."
The report did highlight a number of strengths in the hospital's maternity services in its findings, including praise for the dedicated and professional workforce of midwives and GP obstetricians.