Increasing access to reproductive health services in local communities

27 August 2020 | Contraception and abortion
Information sessions for healthcare professionals in regional Victoria have proven to be invaluable by debunking myths and generating interest in a broader and fairer approach to abortion service delivery.

However, according to an evaluation report launched today by Women’s Health Grampians, more needs to be done to improve access to reproductive health services for women living in rural and remote areas.

The report looked at a project designed to improve access to reproductive health services for women in Victoria’s Grampians Pyrenees and Wimmera regions.

As part of the Increasing Reproductive Choices Project*, Head of Abortion and Contraception Services at the Royal Women’s Hospital, Dr Paddy Moore, delivered workshops for health professionals in the regions.

“We know there are barriers – such as limited training and knowledge, misconceptions and attitudes, lack of time and the need for local coordination and resourcing – that result in a deficit of local services when it comes to sexual and reproductive health,” Dr Moore said.

“But people shouldn’t have to travel hours to Melbourne or to a regional city for an abortion. General practice, local clinics and health services, and community hospitals can safely provide abortion services close to where women live.”

As part of the evaluation, 28 local doctors and nurses were surveyed and this was compared to baseline data captured in 2017. They reported seeing a higher number of patients with an unintended pregnancy, and were more likely to discuss medical abortion, surgical abortion, and telehealth abortion* than previously.

The evaluation found the Increasing Reproductive Choices Project had been successful in contributing to the delivery of new reproductive health services in the Grampians Pyrenees and Wimmera region, in large part through the provision of administrative support, relationship building and education and awareness-raising.

However, the evaluation found low interest amongst a large proportion of health providers in supporting women to access abortion services close to home.

The report made a number of recommendations, including the continuation of education workshops in local communities. 

“We look forward to continuing to support the efforts of the Increasing Reproductive Choices Project and providing education and training opportunities for local practitioners and health services,” Dr Moore said.

The Women's is leading the delivery of the Victorian Government-funded Clinical Champion Network, which trains clinicians across Victoria to support access and availability of abortion and contraception services.

The project has already trained hundreds of clinicians on best clinical practice as part of the Victorian State Government’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Plan. Earlier this year the Victorian Government provided further funding so the Clinical Champion Network could continue.

For information about contraception, pregnancy options and sexual health in Victoria, women can access 1800 MyOptions.

 

* The IRCP was set up to lead change in the region after a 2017 baseline survey to better understand general practitioners’ referral practices for unintended pregnancy options and abortion revealed limited services, high rates of conscientious objection, and a lack of clarity about options for women and referral pathways.

* Telehealth abortion is where the consultation and follow-up is provided over the phone, and the procedure is completed in the privacy of the woman’s home.

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