Covid-19 changes to maternity care: Experiences of Australian doctors
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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic meant rapid changes to Australian maternity services. All maternity services have undertaken significant changes in relation to policies, service delivery and practices and increased use of personal protective equipment. Aims: The aim of this study was to explore and describe doctors’ experiences of providing maternity care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Methods: A national online survey followed by semi-structured interviews with a cohort of participants was conducted during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia (May–June 2020). Participants were recruited through social media networks. Eighty-six doctors completed the survey, and eight were interviewed. Results: Almost all doctors reported rapid development of new guidelines and major changes to health service delivery. Professional colleges were the main source of new information about COVID-19. Most (89%) doctors felt sufficiently informed to care for women with COVID-19. Less than half of doctors felt changes would be temporary. Doctors described workforce disruptions with associated personal and professional impacts. The ability to access and process up-to-date, evidence-based information was perceived as important. Doctors acknowledged that altered models of care had increased pregnant women’s anxiety and uncertainty. All doctors described silver linings from sector changes. Conclusions: This study provides unique insights into doctors’ experiences of providing maternity care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Findings have immediate relevance to the maternity sector now and into the future. Lessons learnt provide an opportunity to reshape the maternity sector to better prepare for future public health crises.
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