A Riverina doctor says the outcome of an emergency birth at one of the region's hospitals "could have been very different" if off-duty staff members had not been in the right place at the right time.
Doctors at Temora Hospital were notified that a woman was on her way to hospital, labouring at 37 weeks with a cord prolapse, earlier this month.
She was being transferred by ambulance from Ardlethan, a 45 minute drive away, having just travelled interstate that morning with her partner.
One of Temora's two GP obstetric registrars made the call for an emergency caesarean section once the woman arrived, and the baby was born within 22 minutes of getting there. The baby was resuscitated and then transferred to Wagga Base Hospital in excellent condition.
Dr Rachel Christmas, one of the four local doctors involved in the delivery, said it was "an amazing act of teamwork and skill".
"I'm really proud of the Temora team ... everything came together at the right time," she said. "It could so easily have gone different".
The NSW Rural Doctors' Association (RDANSW) said staff members had to be plucked from the hospital carpark and off-duty staff members called in to assist with the operation.
Dr Christmas said Temora Hospital hasn't been able to run obstetrics "as we used to" after its operating theatre was almost closed four years ago.
She said a decision to close the theatre was overturned following "huge community uproar", but claims the hospital doesn't have the on-call theatre staff necessary for emergency caesareans
"For the recent emergency delivery, thankfully we had the staff available who we needed ... and they all gave their service at short notice," Dr Christmas, the vice-president of RDA NSW, said.
"But given there is now no roster for the obstetrics theatre, they could just as easily have been unavailable."
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Dr Christmas said this means hospital staff can't guarantee they'll be able to gather an emergency team, perform inductions of labour or perform deliveries unless they're sure it will occur vaginally.
She said this has flow on effects, with theatre staff not being utilised as much and not given as many opportunities to develop their skills.
"We have very skilled practitioners in rural areas," Dr Christmas said.
"What worries me is when we have views that small, country towns shouldn't be doing things because it's too risky, we lose skills.
"Until we have a commitment to maintaining and improving services in smaller hospitals, then near-misses like this will happen more and more often, not always with good outcomes."
Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Megan Belot said rural healthcare workers need to be trained and supported to "deliver the full range of their skills in the place where they work".
A Murrumbidgee Local Health District spokesperson said they are working to achieve this through their Rural Generalist training pathway.
A Rural Generalist is a GP who can undertake advanced training in other areas such as obstetrics, "enabling them to meet the diverse health needs of regional, rural and remote communities".
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