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No time to wait: Corryong baby's rushed birth aided by telehealth


When Cudgewa mum Nicole became unwell with vomiting at 38 weeks pregnant with her second child, she and her young family could never have predicted their newest member would soon make a dramatic entry.

Still three weeks from her baby’s due date, and with no contractions in sight, Nicole suspected food poisoning.

 “I told my husband I thought we should go to the hospital just to check the baby’s obs because I was nervous about why I felt so unwell,” she recalls.

Presenting at Corryong Health’s Urgent Care Centre in the rural Victorian town of Corryong in the early morning hours, the Registered Nurses on duty contacted on-call specialist emergency telehealth provider My Emergency Doctor (MED) via video call, seeking an order for medication to stop her vomiting.

While they were on the line, Nicole began to have contractions and the situation was moving fast. Corryong Health’s Nurse Unit Manager and sole midwife, Tracey Damm, was called in to assist and was on her way. But, given the urgency, an alternative plan was kicked into action.

“The nurses ended up calling for an ambulance transfer so I could deliver the baby at Wodonga Hospital and labour on the way there,” Nicole said. “My husband went home to pack a bag ready to follow in the car with our two-year-old.”

But baby had other ideas. The two nurses, advised via video by MED’s emergency doctor, prepped a room and set up infant resuscitation equipment. When the paramedic team arrived 20 minutes later, they were just in time to aid the delivery; one of the paramedics caught the baby, with nurses on hand to support the delivery and the emergency doctor providing additional assistance via telehealth.

“It was crazy; the paramedic who caught the baby said he clocked in arrival at 3:04am, and I’d had the baby at 3:06.”

Ms Damm arrived soon after the birth, with the midwife taking over to check baby Isaac and supporting Nicole through the crucial post-birth stage. Thankfully, both mother and baby made it through their dramatic ordeal in perfect health, and dad received a call to abandon the plan to drive to Wodonga and returned to meet their newborn son.

“It was such a stressful situation, and it was a relief to know that the nurses had that support on the line while we were waiting for the midwife,” Nicole said.

According to Ms Damm, while the best-case scenario for any birth is to have a qualified, experienced midwife or doctor in the room, telehealth access to a trained emergency physician provided welcome support to staff in a high-pressure situation.

“The doctor was able to provide drug advice and orders and instruct the nurses on what they needed to prepare and what to look out for during and after the birth, and remained on the line until after I arrived,” Ms Damm explained.

“Though it can’t replace hands-on clinical care, it’s a good option for clear, practical advice where an on-site doctor or midwife isn’t available.

“While a birth in our facility is rare – one or two every couple of years – MED’s emergency telehealth service has proved an invaluable resource in supporting patients presenting with a wide range of concerns in the face of ongoing workforce shortages. It’s like a big security blanket,” she added.

For more information on how My Emergency Doctor helps prevent non-urgent presentations and manage patient flow in Emergency Departments across Australia, visit our Healthcare Institutions page.