Authorities investigating avoidable baby deaths are looking also into 38 more complaints about obstetrics at a Victorian hospital.
An independent review found the deaths of seven babies at the Bacchus Marsh Hospital could have been avoided, but the Herald Sun has reported a second investigation found a further five suspect deaths dating back to 2001.
Now the Health Services Commissioner is following up 38 complaints about care received at the Djerriwarrh Health Service, dating from 1990 to 2015 – with 15 in 2013 alone.
“All of those complaining have raised issues relating to the management of pregnancy and labour. The specifics and severity of the issues raised in the complaints vary,” the Commissioner’s office said on Friday.
A further five complaints were received but the complainants chose not to proceed with them.
The second investigation into Djerriwarrh has been recently completed but Health Minister Jill Hennessy would not confirm that a further five baby deaths could have been avoided.
“I’m not in a position to be able to confirm numbers today, our absolute priority is the well-being of the women and families involved in this look-back,” Health Minister Jill Hennessy told reporters on Friday.
Ms Hennessy said officials were waiting to engage with some of the families.
“You can imagine that if you lost a baby 15 years ago, and someone contacts you because they want to talk about the care that you were provided, it’s a pretty devastating and distressing time,” she said.
“So it’s not something that we’ve been able to achieve quickly. Many people feel very re-traumatised by the grief that they thought was over and so we’ve had to be incredibly conscious and respectful of that.”
Ms Hennessy said the results of the second investigation would be made public in coming weeks.
The upcoming state budget will include funding to improve safety in regional health services such as Djerriwarrh including “specialised training programs relating to emergency management and maternity care”.
Money will also be available to strengthen board oversight of quality and safety at smaller rural health services.