‘Women Centred Care – Every Women Every Time’ – John Hunter Hospital Commitment to Midwifery Services in Hunter New England Health.
I recently met with Wendy Tsang and Jane Crosbie as part of a podcast series for our Hunter New England Overseas recruitment Campaign. Wendy and Jane work closely together in John Hunter Hospital and have a combined experience of over 40 years working in the JHH. From our conversation, you can clearly hear their passion for providing women-centred care, to every woman, every time. Here are some highlights, but you can listen to the whole episode on our We Change Lives Podcast Page.
What’s Newcastle like as a Location?
Newcastle is a beautiful coastal town with a reputation for being one of the best surfing locations in Australia. John Hunter Hospital is 30 minutes from the beach, and we have some midwives going for a swim before or after their shift in the hospital. Lake Macquarie, the largest saltwater lake in Australia, is only down the road and boasts a number of popular water activities including boating, fishing and canoeing. More recently stand up paddling is becoming all the rage. Port Stephens, a holiday playground encompassing the rivers and lakes is another beautiful place to visit and hang out for a variety of outdoor activities. When you have had too much of the outdoor healthy lifestyle, being 40 minutes from the Hunter Valley you can chill out and relax over a cold glass of locally produced wine while soaking in the beautiful countryside of the valley.
Downtown Newcastle is growing in its development being so close to Sydney (only 2 hours away) and providing plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from. It is a university town, and has plenty of school options for anyone bringing over their families, or looking to set up home here. It has all the advantages of a big town, but with less traffic, and currently a lower cost of living.
Tell us more about John Hunter Hospital and your Maternity Services.
John Hunter Hospital, was brand new when Jane Crosbie started with them in 1991. It is a 796 bedded hospital, which includes the John Hunter Children’s hospital, both tertiary level hospitals, supporting one of the largest local health districts in New South Wales. The even better news is that in 2026 investment has been pledged to build a new hospital.
John Hunter Hospital (JHH) Maternity Services
JHH Maternity services birth over 4500 babies in a year within the hospital. It is the largest maternity outside of the Sydney Metropolitan region, as it supports the smaller maternity units in the region. JHH takes a very collaborative approach to their maternity services and has a Medical team and midwives flying in and out to regions to offer support and education and provide a telehealth service to the regions. The maternity services are fully supported by onsite services (24 x 7 Theatre), a Neonatal unit across the hall, as well as a multi-disciplinary team including social workers, lactation consultants, medical staff, nurses and healthcare staff.
JHH offer a variety of models of care including
- The high-risk model of care includes a high-risk antenatal ward for women who need additional observation and support. Collaborating with medical staff, and other services including gynaecology and oncology wards.
- Continuity of care model (building relationships with the women throughout the pregnancy)
- Low-risk model (over 70 home births a year), where the women know what they want, have their birth plan, and midwives support them to ensure they feel safe and happy to birth with them.
- At-risk women who are vulnerable, because their life may be chaotic for these women it’s important to build rapport and engage in the services that they provide.
JHH Maternity Units / Services
Birth Suite, where midwives care for the women, specifically if low risk. The midwifery team look after the labouring and birthing of women, working along with Medical staff to ensure the birth progresses well.
Belmont Hospital is an off-site birthing service outside of the JHH. It offers birth at home or birth in Belmont. It works with low-risk births, and when a higher level of care or intervention is required, women can be transferred to John Hunter Hospital, only a 20-minute trip down the road.
Ante natal clinics are conducted, off and on-site. JHH offer a high-risk antenatal ward, where women at high risk are admitted for close observation when required, and who may require a longer hospital stay.
New Born Services, JHH care for all babies, with the exception of cardiac babies, they are transferred to Sydney. The hospital neo-natal unit is based on-site, rural sites transfer babies into the hospital, providing great comfort and reassurance to new parents.
How did you manage during Covid?
Women Support during Covid
The hospital took a collaborative approach to work in covid involving the medical, midwifery and senior management teams. The first few months were challenging when partners were not available to attend the birth. The team felt it was very important for women to have their partners during the labour and birthing process. Working together with senior management to make it safe for the partners, and staff, JHH maternity services were able to facilitate birthing partners in the birthing suite. Once introduced, this strategy was able to be used as a model for the rest of the district.
Staff support during Covid
The staff felt very supported. There is a very good senior management team here, both in maternity and the general hospital. There has been nothing but support since covid began. Supporting our staff, who were challenged by the PPE requirements, especially when coming in and out of breaks, overall fatigue and exhaustion, as well as pressure areas on their faces. The hospital provided facilities so that staff could feel safe going home to their families after work, as well as carrying out staff safety huddles once a shift to ensure everybody was coping, and if not identifying the supports needed.
Do you have many Overseas Nurses working in JHH?
Yes, we have over a dozen midwives from the UK, as well as Midwives from New Zealand, Ireland and India. We find that overseas nurses and midwives adapt very well to the service and it quickly becomes their second home. They also bring their skills and knowledge to the hospital, which can be incorporated to improve our services. There is a very diverse population base in the area, a large Afghani, Indian, and Indigenous community, as well as a large number of refugees (Iraq, Syria) who have settled in the Sydney / Newcastle area. So there are diverse cultural needs within the location, which only benefits from overseas nurses who bring their own knowledge and culture to the mix.
Why should a Midwife consider joining the John Hunter Hospital Maternity Team?
It is a world-class facility with every model of care you can imagine, we cater to all of the midwives’ desires. Whether it is a high risk or continuity of care model. It takes a collaborative approach to provide women-centred care across the whole team. We also have Clinical Educators on the individual units, who work with staff and support them with any learning needs and skills development. This is particularly helpful when overseas midwives are transitioning to the Australian Healthcare system.
It is also affiliated with the University of Newcastle and co-located with Hunter Medical Research Institute on site. There is a lot of investment in mothers and babies research, and midwives get to work closely with researchers. So we are not just caring for women, we are also looking ahead to what is the next best thing we can do and how we can implement that too.