When cohealth midwife and refugee health nurse Jeanette George rides her bike past Fitzroy Primary on her way to work, mums and little kids call out her name in greeting. After 15 years of paving the way for scores of babies into the world, she is a much-loved and appreciated part of the community.
“That’s the most joyous part really,” said Jeanette, who sits in front of a large pinboard in her consult room covered with photos of babies and beaming refugee mums. “This isn’t my neighbourhood where I live, but I feel really at home in this area.”
As part of a shared care program with the Royal Women’s and Mercy Hospitals, Jeannette has developed lasting bonds with women supporting them through multiple pregnancies.
“Jeanette is a nice, lovely midwife,” said 30-year-old Sudanese Fitzroy resident Achel Deng, who has had five babies supported by Jeannette since 2009. “Even some people have moved away now from Fitzroy, but they want to come back to Jeannette. Sometimes trust is more important.”
Jeannette formed a lasting friendship with a mother of eight, supporting her with 3 babies at a time when Red Cross International were helping track down her eldest son who was missing in Sudan.
“It was delightful, he came, they were reunited,” said Jeannette. “We saw him as a new arrival, and he was the most gentle boy.”
Midwifery takes up a third of Jeanette’s workload, with around 35 clients per year. Her other work focuses on Women’s Health, providing access to cervical screening and contraception, childhood immunisations and refugee health assessments and support.
The majority of clients are from Fitzroy’s high rise accommodation, home to a large refugee community who are intricately connected, supporting each other when new babies arrive with cooking and caring for the older children.
While most clients have their babies at the Royal Women’s and Jeanette sees them afterwards for post-natal care, there was an occasion when a woman came across the road from the flats and her labour was so quick that Jeanette called an ambulance but ended up delivering her client’s baby on the bed in her consult room.
“It was very straightforward and she was fine. It was funny when we walked out past reception with the ambos and the baby, they don’t normally see that!”
Find out more information about Women’s health services at cohealth.