QUALITY OF CARE REPORT 2013-14

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Improving care for mothers in regional and rural areas


Bron Cole with mum and babyThe Perinatal Emotional Health Program is a specialist early intervention service, supporting families experiencing emotional health problems during pregnancy and early parenthood

Services provided include:

  • Follow-up mental health assessment, intervention and support for women experiencing emotional health problems
  • coordination of referrals to appropriate support services for families.
  • education for families and other healthcare workers regarding emotional health problems during and following pregnancy.
  • liaison with other healthcare providers to ensure seamless transition between pre and post natal care.

The program aims to provide early interventions for women at risk of, or experiencing, perinatal mental health problems identified by health professionals who have contact with women during the perinatal period (including midwives, maternal child health nurses, general practitioners, paediatricians and obstetricians). 

This year, the program was enhanced by utilising videoconferencing facilities to enable more women to access the service without having to travel.

The program is staffed by three senior clinicians locally and is supported by Dr Raju Lakshmana, Consultant Psychiatrist, in Melbourne via video-conference.

Dr Lakshmana participates in weekly case conferences with the clinicians, supporting the development of wholistic, patient-centred treatment and support plans.  Dr Lakshmana also provides primary consultations to patients via video-conference.

This innovative model of care is Medicare funded with no cost to the patient.  

General Practitioners and other care providers receive specialist assessment and treatment advice following consultations.  It means that women in the Goulburn Valley catchment have easier access to a specialist perinatal psychiatrist.  

Prior to this, women requiring specialist perinatal psychiatric care would have needed to travel to Melbourne or Bendigo to access services.  So far, more than 50 women have seen Dr Lakshmana via video-conference and more than 100 referrals have been discussed at case conference meetings.

Referrals can be made by talking with an Antenatal Clinic Midwife, the Maternity Midwives, a Maternal Child Health Nurse or a General Practitioner. Alternatively you can contact the Perinatal and Emotional Health Program directly on (03) 5823 6000 or Mental Health Triage on 1300 369 005.