FACE-TO-FACE maternal and child health clinic appointments are no longer available in the fast-growing suburb of Marong, the City of Greater Bendigo has revealed.
The city is already facing community backlash after it did not re-instate nurse visits to Elmore after the pandemic, with a petition calling for their return.
The town's GP clinic practice manager Kathy Tuohey said some mothers would be unable to easily travel to access the vital service in Huntly or Epsom.
Whipstick Ward councillor Andrea Metcalf said it wasn't fair to expect rural residents to travel further for services, saying she would raise the issue with the city's Rural Communities Committee.
Council said Elmore mothers could visit the Huntly or Epsom MCH services, or access a home visit if they were unable to drive.
A growing suburb, Marong lacks a regular public transport link with central Bendigo.
Elmore resident Gina Spizzica had her first child in May 2020. She would like to see face-to-face maternal and child health nurses return to Elmore, saying the town's mothers felt neglected.
Since Ms Spizzica's daughter was born, they have seen a maternal and child health nurse three times.
By nine months, a Victorian mother and child would normally have visited a maternal child and health nurse six times.
The City of Greater Bendigo did switch its face-to-face maternal and child health centres to telephone consults in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the period which covered many of Wren's early months. The city resumed face-to-face appointments from October 5, 2020.
Ms Spizzica said three appointments booked at the Elmore Maternal and Child Health Centre were cancelledduring the pandemic. But she said she was unable to book a replacement appointment until the Huntly centre reopened after COVID-19.
It meant doing weigh-ins at home to check her baby's progress, during months without an appointment.
Ms Spizzica said a Huntly MCH centre receptionist had told her mothers from Huntly and Epsom took priority for appointments. When she did manage to make an appointment, it was cancelled, three times in a row.
She said it had taken three-and-a-half months just to make an appointment that was kept.
The City of Greater Bendigo MCHS webpage states it is prioritising face-to-face appointments for infants aged zero to eight weeks, and three-and-a-half-year-olds, due to a high demand after the COVID-19 crisis.
Ms Spizzica said learning to take care of her baby was hard, even with the support of her family.
She said it would have been nice to have clarity on how her daughter's growth was tracking compared to normal.
Ms Spizzica said the council obviously had concerns about sending a single nurse out to Elmore, but changing the location or instituting monthly visits could overcome these.
A City of Greater Bendigo staff member cited health and safety concerns for nurses working solo, saying the city was moving to establish sites with more than one staff member present.
Ms Spizzica said it would be a weight off the shoulders of many mothers in Elmore, to be able to see a maternal and child health nurse face-to-face.
"I feel like all the parents of Elmore (are) not even thought about," she said.
"It's made us feel like we're a bit neglected here, what do we do if we have an issue with our child, or a question? We don't know if we can go to them."
Cr Metcalf said the City of Greater Bendigo needed to have a conversation about what distance it was reasonable to expect residents of rural communities to travel to access services.
She said a new baby could be very isolating for mothers, saying it could be good to be able to walk to the Elmore practice and see other people on the way.
But Cr Metcalf said the issue of service was a broader than the maternal and child health nurse visits alone.
"We do have, little satellite towns around the City of Greater Bendigo and we expect them to travel for services in a lot of instances," Cr Metcalf.
"As a ward councilor, we don't have one set of rules that apply to our urban areas and one set of rules that apply to our rural areas."
Victorian families are advised to visit a maternal and child health nurse at 10 key stages between birth and the age of three-and-a-half-years, according to Victorian government advice.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
- Bookmark bendigoadvertiser.com.au/
- Make sure you are signed up for our breaking and regular headlines newsletters
- Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/BgoAddy
- Follow us on Instagram instagram.com/bendigoadvertiser/
- Follow us on Google News