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How Logan turned its maternity services around to improve pregnancy outcomes for vulnerable women

Before the hubs, many women were not turning up to their antenatal appointments which was contributing to a range of dangerous outcomes for mums and bubs. (ABC News: Rachel McGhee)

Shontanel Ngataua recalls hospital visits during her first two pregnancies as "mentally and emotionally draining".

The now mother of five envisioned building a friendly relationship with her doctor and midwife at the time, but instead found herself dreading appointments.

"I would go to my appointments [and] I would have to explain myself every single time, what was happening in my pregnancy," the 26-year-old said.

Ms Ngataua is a Māori woman living in Logan and her frustration with inconsistent care throughout the health system was not unique.

"They weren't getting that personable relationship … it was like come give birth and go … that was very traumatic to some of our families," Pasifika Maternity Hub manager Monica Mamea said.

"Sharing their story over and over again to different people and that impacted their experiences and also that cultural [element] and not understanding and misunderstanding and then being overlooked."

Families feel culturally safe at the hubs. (ABC News: Rachel McGhee)

Pasifika Maternity Hub – Village Connect is one of five culturally specific hubs throughout Logan created in response to women's experiences of traumatic and inconsistent care during pregnancy and birth.

"It's about building a wrap-around service for the families so it doesn't end here at the Pasifika Maternity Hub, it's just the beginning of a family's journey."

In 2015 the region's hospital and health service found many women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds were not showing up to their antenatal appointments.

"Six hundred women … per annum were not receiving any antenatal care and that was higher than the state average," midwifery unit manager for Logan's community maternity and child health hubs Michelle O'Connor said.

"Because of that there were more pre-term births, more women with babies admitted to special care [and] low birth-weight babies."

Monica Mamea says many women from various cultural and linguistic backgrouds were experiencing trauma and negative pregnancy outcomes. (ABC News: Rachel McGhee)

The hubs have changed that.

Since they opened five years ago, newborn health has improved, fewer women are smoking during pregnancy, and more women are attending antenatal care appointments.

"That's gone from 600 women … who aren't attending their appointments … to 199," Ms O'Connor said.

"We've decreased that number by 67 per cent."

The hubs were designed by Pasifika, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and refugee community leaders and the Metro South Health and Hospital Service.

The aim was to reach vulnerable women in the Logan community and reduce barriers to accessing maternity care such as transport, trauma and cultural and social issues.

The hubs also connect women and their families with broader community support such as English classes, legal advice and family and domestic violence support.

"You're building on that relationship-based care — it fosters trust and safety and connection and we know it's associated with better outcomes," Ms O'Connor said.

'You're just coming to see friends'

The hubs allow mothers to build a relationship with their midwife. (ABC News: Rachel McGhee)

Ms Ngataua came to the Pasifika Village Connect hub for her past three pregnancies.

She said it made a world of difference to her care and the children's wellbeing and described the experience as "coming to see friends".

Every appointment she is welcomed by her midwife Kate Hoeben.

"She's actually been there through the pregnancies and through the labours and delivering our children so she knows exactly who I am and what I go through," she said.

"You have a connection and have built a relationship there."

It is a privilege to help vulnerable women get the best possible pregnancy outcomes and hopes the service can expand, Ms Hoeben said.

"I just love working here it's a privilege to have this space and to be able to look after women in this way it's very much needed and something I think should be growing," she said.

"We've got lots of women who unfortunately haven't been able to come on board with us just because of capacity in regards to staffing, but if we could grow that it would have an even larger impact on community."

Feeling 'culturally safe'

Ms Mamea said the hubs allow women and their children to feel culturally safe in a medical environment.

"Families come to connect with their own community, so that they feel safe in that environment in that space and it's familiar to them."

Ms Mamea said in Pasifika culture it can be hard to build rapport with medical professionals as many women feel scared or nervous, but the hub is changing that, too.

"In our Pasifika cultures, we highly regard professions such as doctors and lawyers, and when we highly regard those professions it's really hard to build a good rapport," she said.

"So being able to bring it into the community is able to build that comfortable trust for our families."

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