By ANITA HULM
WHAT happened about nine months ago?
That's the question puzzling the maternity staff of the Murwillumbah District Hospital.
The stork has been "flapped off its wings".
The usually quiet months of June and July have seen 40 babies and 33 babies come into the world and many of these births were condensed into a six-week window.
This baby boom has kept the staff at the hospital's maternity ward on their toes and scratching their heads for the reason for it.
Nursing Unit Manager Tina Neff said the unit was now relatively quiet, with just one mother in the unit, but bookings were already looking busy for August and September and the past few weeks had been "chaotic".
"September and October are usually very big," Mrs Neff said yesterday.
She said many of the babies had been premature, but counting back the nine months meant most of the babies were conceived in October.
"We can't recall a power blackout or anything like that might be the reason," the hospital's chief executive officer, Ian Murray, said yesterday.
"Thirty-five babies in a month is really busy, and to have 40 in a month is really quite a big month."
But June and July's massive leap is part of a bigger trend for the hospital, with 405 babies born at the hospital last year for July to June 2004-05, 30 more than the previous financial year.
Mr Murray said the growth in the Tweed's population was a factor, but another was the high quality of care that patients received.
"Where to have your baby is a very personal issue, you do not take your family where you are concerned at the outcome," he said.
He said the midwives at the hospital were very experienced and they worked closely with great specialist obstetricians and GPs.
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Mrs Neff said significant numbers of mothers were coming from places like Federal near Byron Bay and even the Gold Coast to have their babies at the hospital.
She said there were very few young mothers, with most aged from from mid-20s to 40s.
Mrs Neff said many of the staff at the unit were now helping to deliver the babies of mothers they had also delivered at the hospital.
The spokesman for the North Coast Area Health Service, Robin Osborne, said the increase at Murwillumbah was also being reflected at The Tweed Hospital.
For the 2004-05 financial year, The Tweed Hospital delivered 1009 babies, way up on the 841 babies for the year before.
Mr Osborne said there were probably several different factors at play for the rise, including an expansion of services at the hospital and the growth in populations both in the Tweed and the Gold Coast.
He said while Tweed's population would continue to age, it was still expected to grow 23 per cent by 2011.
Mr Osborne said an increase in babies and the elderly meant an increase in health costs, because they were the most expensive times of life for health care.