ELMORE'S GP clinic practice manager fears families have been left without access to child and maternal health care after the Bendigo council withdrew on-site nurse visits to the town.
But the City of Greater Bendigo says it is offering all newborns a home visit, while families have the option of phone service or accessing care in Huntly or Epsom. A representative said families who could not travel were offered home visits.
Elmore Practice Manager Kathy Tuohey began a petition to re-instate the service after realising face-to-face nurse visits to the town's Maternal and Child Health Service had not resumed after the COVID-19 crisis eased.
The petition says the Elmore service's closure makes the Maternal and Child Health Service inaccessible, with the nearest centre more than 30 kilometres away.
Ms Tuohey said the Maternal and Child Health Service was vital for detecting conditions, early development and referring parents on to specialists quickly if needed.
She said when COVID-19 first hit most services stopped consulting face to face. It wasn't until the crisis began to ease Ms Tuohey realised face-to-face nurse visits were yet to resume.
Ms Tuohey said it was disappointing to see the service cut, as lots of new mums were moving to Elmore.
Council said services were available at Huntly and Epsom. But Ms Tuohey said young mothers told her these services were prioritising mothers living in Bendigo itself for appointments.
She said many Elmore families had only one car, making it difficult for mothers to access the Huntly and Epsom facilities if their husband used it for work.
Ms Tuohey said response from the community had been good, with the petition gaining more than 60 signatures on its first day
"Elmore's on a buzz at the moment. There's a lot of new babies ... so I was really disappointed to hear we were going to lose this service, such an important service for new mums," she said.
"I know we've got nine month old babies that have seen the maternal nurse once, because they haven't been able to get in."
But City of Greater Bendigo acting community wellbeing manager Caroline Grylls said maternal and child health services were not being withdrawn from Elmore.
Ms Grylls said the city had emailed all clients to say the city would not resume services from the Elmore Child and Maternal Health Service site in the future.
She said instead clients were offered a home visiting service or access to Huntly or Epsom clinics.
Ms Grylls said the city was gradually moving to establish sites that have more than one nurse present, for the health and safety of their maternal and child health staff.
She said the number of families with young children in Elmore did not justify having two nurses on-site regularly.
In recognition some families don't drive or can't access transport, the city offered home visits to families who cannot access the Huntly or Epsom sites, Ms Grylls said.
The Elmore Child and Maternal Health Services had generally offered consultations one day per fortnight over the last 20 years, depending on demand.
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