Birthing WA

The latest WA public maternity services stats may surprise. WA new mums are getting older – more than 25% mothers aged 35 or over giving birth for the first time, and this age group now makes up 18.4% of total births (up from 9.4% in 1990). The birth rate for women aged 15-19 has decreased (25 births per 1000 women in 1990, to19 in 2004) while birth rates for women aged 19 or younger has remained steady. Perinatal mortality amongst Aboriginal babies was 16 per 1000 births, the lowest in 15 years (highest point 27 in 1992). During 1990-2004 caesarean sections rose from 18.8% to 32.4%. Caesarean rate in private hospitals in 2004 was 42%, compared to 26.2% in public hospitals – 86.1% was the repeat caesarean rate.

Dodgy research

Researchers have turned their attention to dodgy published research [MJA 2006; 185 (3)], comparing unintentional mistakes (read good enough excuse) with scientific misconduct (read no excuse for falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism). They found 395 articles retracted between 1982 and 2002 in English language publications. Of these, 27% were retracted because of scientific misconduct, 62% from unintentional errors, and 11% uncategorised. Error articles were more likely to have multiple authors, no reported funding source, and were published in frequently cited journals – withdrawal was delayed an average two years while misconduct took a year longer.

Obstetrics labours on

Major changes to obstetric services were recommended by the Cohen report but bureaucracy and interest group lobbying have ensured defenders of the status quo hold the upper hand. The Legislative Council has now established a Select Committee into public obstetric services that is seeking submissions from the community. This committee is looking into the adequacy of the report’s decision-making process, specifically whether community consultation and involvement was appropriate. Osborne Division is canvassing its members regarding possible obstetrics closure at Osborne Park Hospital.

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