Maternity services in rural and remote regions of Canada, France, the United States, and comparable jurisdictions are facing closures. Australia has seen a closure of nearly half of their maternity units over the past two decades. Dr. Lesley Barclay (University of Sydney) has carried out fieldwork on how growing rates of maternity unit closures has impacted rural and remote residents in Australia. This research was part of the Australian Rural Birthing Index Project (ARBI), which was developed to assist in planning appropriate levels of maternity services for various rural communities. Dr. Barclay was supported by a team of researchers from Canada and Australia, including CRHR’s very own Dr. Jude Kornelsen.
A full description of the main findings has been made in a 2016 article titled “Reconceptualising risk: perceptions of risk in rural and remote maternity service planning.” The paper reports participants’ perceptions of risk in relation to the closure of rural maternity services, obtained through semi-structured individual and group interviews, focus groups, and group discussions. The analysis covers various clinical, legal, political, financial, cultural, emotional, and operational risks associated with the closure of rural maternity services. Understanding these risks, whether they are perceived or observed, is vital to the planning and improvement of rural and remote health services.