17 May 2010

Fiji's urban hospitals under baby boom pressure

3:05 pm on 17 May 2010

A baby boom at Fiji's three main hospitals is baffling officials and placing pressure on beds and staff.

There's been a leap in the average monthly birth figure at Suva's Colonial War Memorial Hospital from about 500 to 800 a month, with more than nine hundred babies born there in March.

Fiji's Health Ministry spokesman Iliesa Tora says while the boom may be due to a natural increase in births, women appear to prefer to give birth in the main centres instead of using the smaller rural hospitals.

"We've had to bring in beds from other sub-divisional hospitals. We've had to call in extra hands to cater for the demand. We can't just turn the mothers away. We've got short-term plans of pulling in extra staff from outside. There are some retired nurses that we are calling back in. We are trying to see the rooms which we can free up to cater for the demand."

Iliesa Tora says the government has been trying to improve the skills of mid-wives and nurses at provincial hospitals and needs to find out why women are not using them to give birth.

Last year a parliamentary hearing on Pacific maternal health held in Wellington heard Fiji's lowered retirement age for civil servants had led to an increase in maternal deaths in provincial areas.