“Why won’t the Liberals fix the NSW health system?” – A midwife speaks out


Midwife Terrin Illingworth gets to the bottom of the Liberal and National Parties’ baby bundle farce – it’s all about buying votes this election rather than fixing our health system.

On 1 January, the commencement of handing out the baby hampers funded by the NSW Coalition government occurred. On the outside looking in, it could be considered a great idea. But the reality paints a different picture.

I’m a new grad midwife and nurse. I was born and raised in NSW however, I did my university training in Queensland. Throughout the entire time that I was at university, I was told about how superior the NSW health system was to the Queensland health system. “If I were you I’d study in NSW” was the usual rhetoric. When I finished university, my husband’s work brought our family back to NSW.

To say I’m shocked was an understatement. I’ve seen first-hand the mess that has been the public–private consortium of Northern Beaches Hospital – the stress that it has caused my colleagues is unbelievable. Additionally, we have hospitals in this state that are vastly underfunded: we have no statewide clinical guidelines for neonatal and maternal health in place (oddly they can vary greatly from hospital to hospital, and LHD to LHD – something very new for me); we have maternity wards that go without IV pumps; and we have a critical shortage of midwives. It’s only by the grace of incredible midwives that we still manage to give supportive care to women and their infants.

Our Victorian and Queensland counterparts are currently fighting for infants to be included in nurse-to-patient ratios. Here in NSW, we are still fighting for mandated ratios across multiple sectors. We all know that nurse-to-patient ratios save lives – the evidence to support ratios is overwhelming. Yet, we hear silence from the NSW Coalition Government. Their silence on the subject speaks volumes.

I know some readers are probably thinking why doesn’t she just go back to Queensland? However, shouldn’t the question be, why won’t our state government fund real and meaningful change in the NSW health system? Flashy hospitals leased out to the private sector doesn’t cut it. Neither do baby hampers that take up precious and sparse space in hospitals. 

The women in NSW deserve the best maternity care. They deserve options. They deserve a health system where evidence-based practice is supported by overarching clinical guidelines. We midwives, at minimum, deserve that too.

But I suppose none of it matters as long as the premier – and the Liberals and Nationals – get those hampers out to buy those votes within a few weeks. 

This article was originally published as a Letter to the Editor from the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association publication, Lamp.


  1. Terrin, I understand your pain. I have just endured 4 years working in a regional rural referral hospital where I was shocked and then horrified with no state wide guidelines in clinical care! Staffing was a huge problem this hospital tried to solve by training their own. However without good experienced clinical leads and Educators who are available to support and guide, the Uni’s did a dump and run for their students, how were they to learn. Indeed they added to the workload, and nobody was there to support them when things went wrong. They left after their year was up, most never to practice midwifery ever again. Post natal Ward with no Midwives to support and guide new mum’s breast feeding, on discharge to home two hours away you knew they would switch to formula. Nobody listening to experienced wise Midwives instead many were led to ‘constructed dismissals’ or left voluntarily for daring to speak up. Enough is enough. I have returned to Queensland well resourced and supported. Thank you for your efforts as we SHARE our experiences with the medical team. We are one, valued and respected for each professional skill we have. The joy not being blamed or micro-managed. The Association- sadly rural and regional are poorly supported!


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