"Our postcode should not reflect our budget."
Those words, spoken by exhausted midwife Louisa Ainsclough, sum up the frustration of local midwives who rallied in protest today near Campbelltown Hospital.
"In the past two years our birthrate [in Macarthur] has increased by 26 per cent but our staffing has decreased," Ms Ainsclough, the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association Macarthur branch delegate, said.
"Where metro hospitals of similar size have seven midwives on a night shift, we have four!"
There is a staggering shortfall of 45 positions and there are grave concerns over the quality of care the overworked midwives are able to deliver, as they run from room to room.
"We seriously worry for the safety of mother and babies - and that is why it was time to call in the union," she said.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association organised a community rally at noon today drawing a crowd of about 200 people to Park Central's Marsden Park as a show of support
There was plenty of (off-duty) hospital staff, also many mothers with prams and strollers, and Macarthur federal Labor MP Dr Mike Freelander, and fellow paediatrician (and former state MP) Dr Andrew McDonald.
Dr Freelander told the crowd three of his own children were born at Campbelltown Hospital and he had worked with the midwives for 35 years, so he knew the intense pressure they were under.
He called a cost-cutting staff freeze at the hospital "absolutely criminal", particularly for midwifes who had to run out in the middle of a labour to answer an urgent phone call needing help.
Dr McDonald pointed out that the midwife speaker at the rally, Ms Ainsclough, had just come of an exhausting night shift and she and her fellow midwives were only protesting at a rally because they had simply ran out of other options - "this government needs to know you can't get blood out of a stone".
"If you want modern first class midwifery care you must have the recommended staffing levels," Ms Ainsclough warned.
"No one cares, in hindsight, that you were busy that night.
"But they do care if you didn't tick that one box out of 1000 boxes."
She said working through lunch breaks was now the norm, and the stress involved in cutting corners and not being able to stay with a birthing mother begging for help - made the job incredibly stressful.
"It enough to make you shed a little tear [in private].... and then you have to stride out and put on a reassuring smile to the mothers. This is our reality.
"We know it will take time and a lot of resources to recruit 45 new midwives...but it should have never got to this crisis point!
"Mothers and babies of Macarthur deserve to feel that their hospitals are safe. With the ever-growing birth rate in this vastly-growing local community we simply cannot wait 6-12 months for these positions."
Dr McDonald said Its not like the midwives were demanding extra funding - "we are asking for existing positions to be filled".
He said that needed clever responses, such as importing skilled hands from overseas if there is a shortfall in NSW - "There are thousands in the UK who would give an arm and a leg to come and work for us."
"But if there is no will from the hospital administration, there will be no way."
He said the most pressing demand - hiring ward clerks to save the overworked midwives from endless paperwork - could be solved within a week or two with "a simple advertisement in the local paper".
"But it needs a will to do so."
Dr Freelander said he and Campbelltown state MP Greg Warren would be lobbying the NSW Health Minister directly to come to Macarthur to meet with the over-burdened midwives.
He said he was sick of "begging" for the government to give to Campbelltown Hospital what other hospitals got without even asking.
"The time for second rate treatment for south-west Sydney is over, we demand first rate staffing and proper attention for the problems we have with a rapidly increasing population," Dr Freelander said.
Campbelltown MP Greg Warren (Labor) has also thrown his weight behind the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association decision to hold a rally.
"On countless occasions, I have witnessed how dedicated, passionate and hard working the staff at Campbelltown and Camden hospitals are," he said.
"But there are only a limited amount of them so they can only do so much.
"I completely understand and support the need for this rally."
A Campbelltown Hospital spokeswoman said South Western Sydney Local Health District was "constantly reviewing the midwifery roster and daily staffing levels as well as looking for ways to improve our models of care".
"The safety and care of our patients is always our priority," she said.