LEETON shire's expecting mothers know how important it is to have a relationship with the town's midwives and healthcare professionals.
At the Leeton hospital this comes in the form of the Leeton Midwifery Group Practice (LMGP).
This service offers midwifery-led ensuring birthing mothers have access to positive and safe childbirth choices and continuity of care.
LMGP engages and collaborates with GPs, obstetricians and paediatricians to provide health assessment and care throughout the antenatal, birth and postnatal experience of the woman and her family.
So, who are the people behind this essential program?
One of the most well-known faces to residents would be Leeanne Driscoll, who is a registered nurse and midwife.
She started at the hospital in 1991.
Since then, Ms Driscoll has worked in a variety of roles, including midwifery, nursing in the general wards, emergency department nursing, acute care, theatre nursing and nurse unit manager positions.
"I found during my tenure as a manager, I really missed patient contact, so when we no longer had a full-time general practitioner obstetrician, I was keen to join the Leeton Midwifery Group Practice model of care," she said.
"I wanted to be part of the solution for women's birthing options for our town and surrounding areas.
"I love my town, I was born here at the hospital on the second floor.
"Thinking about it, I have delivered half the people in this town, so I feel very attached and want the best outcomes for the people who live here.
"It worries me there is a misconception in our area that birthing mothers do not have proper access to maternity services, because they do. We are right here at Leeton hospital."
The LMGP program allows birthing mothers to not only get to know the team of specialised midwives throughout the term of their pregnancy, but also enables care to be focused on an individual's needs.
"Every parenting journey is different and we are passionate about recognising a women's rights to determine their birthing choices, pain relief options and post-natal birth care, including after care from the comfort of their home if needed," Ms Driscoll said.
"High-risk pregnancies are more complicated and often require the birthing mother to deliver at either Griffith or Wagga, but we are able to collaborate with GPs, obstetricians, paediatricians and other specialists and monitor patients in the leadup to their birthing often saving our birthing mothers the inconvenience and expense of travel for routine check-ups."
Rebecca Quiring is a clinical midwifery educator, who has been working at the Leeton hospital since 2019.
Ms Quiring began nursing in 2007 and became a midwife two years later.
"I grew up in Hillston, then moved to Armidale to complete my Bachelor in Nursing in 2007," she said.
"I qualified in midwifery in 2009 and spent much of my career working in tertiary hospitals and in the community."
Ms Quiring and her family made the decision to relocate to Leeton in 2019.
"We did a bit of research on the town and when I saw that Leeton was operating under a midwifery group practice model it was the deciding factor for us," she said.
"Midwifery-led group practice is not a new concept in Australia, with research telling us the continuity of care we deliver really is the gold standard. The model really does give women the best possible outcomes.
"Babies are less likely to be born premature and mothers are more likely to report a positive birthing experience.
"I really felt it was a great way for me to contribute to something that will have an amazingly positive outcome for the women we care for, their families and the community in and around Leeton."
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Ms Quiring said living and working in Leeton was something she continued to enjoy.
"We have been able to develop some wonderful community connections and the town really has exceeded all my expectations," she said.
"For a smaller community town, it has all the facilities of a larger city with the bonus of feeling like part of something more personal.
"The community spirit in Leeton is amazing. Attending the Leeton SunRice Festival with my family was heart-warming, everyone is so friendly."
Another member of the team is Beth Herlihy, a registered midwife.
Ms Herlihy first trained as a naturopath in Byron Bay before making the decision to pivot to midwifery.
"I enjoy the holistic approach to healthcare and had an opportunity to broaden my skills as a direct entry midwife at Lismore Hospital back in 2011," she said.
"Practicing as a naturopath and registered midwife in Bryon Bay for 25 years gave me an opportunity to really decompress from my previous life living and working in Sydney and allowed me the time to really focus on community and the person-centred care you really can deliver as healthcare provider in a smaller town.
"At the completion of my degree in midwifery, I spent my graduate year in midwifery at both the RPA in Sydney, and at Parkes Hospital in the Central West.
"I was meant to stay in Parkes for six months but loved living in a regional area so much I stayed for over five years."
When the opportunity to apply at Leeton as a midwife became available Ms Herlihy jumped at the chance.
"I was emotionally ready to assist women in their birthing experience, without a doctor present because as a midwife one is then able to work at our full scope of practice, which is a wonderful thing," she said.
Ms Herlihy has been living and working in Leeton since January.
Shona Kaio is also a registered midwife who is enjoying working within the model of care.
Ms Kaio was initially introduced to Leeton as an agency midwife.
She said she loved it so much she applied to be a permanent casual midwife in the LMGP team and looks forward to her three monthly posts to her second home.
"I am very happy here, let me tell you that," Ms Kaio said.
Originally a registered midwife in New Zealand, she used to providing individualised care for her patients during the course of their pregnancy and following birth.
"It is my 16th year practicing as a midwife and I just now feel like I really know my stuff," Ms Kaio said. "Midwifery is such a specialised and important role, it is a very specific skill set,and I feel privileged to be part of every woman's birthing journey.
"My values and skill set are very well placed here because the setting is smaller, the care is one on one, and you have opportunity to really get to know your patients. It is not a tick and flick scenario.
"I enjoy providing one to one care, giving that continuity and reassurance to birthing mothers, it is a perfect way to help women who really need it.
"In Leeton the sun shines every day. It is a lovely small community, very friendly and accepting of others. My work environment is friendly and supportive and the most rewarding thing about my job is relationships I have built with my peers and the community really makes it feel just like home."
What: Leeton Midwifery Group Practice
Where: Leeton Hospital
Contact: 02 5943 2148 or MLHD-Leeton-Midwives@health.nsw.gov.au.
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