Eight-month-old baby Olive Ostila of Barkers Vale, pictured with parents Jacqui McSkimming and Matt Ostila, was born with gastroschisis.
Eight-month-old baby Olive Ostila of Barkers Vale, pictured with parents Jacqui McSkimming and Matt Ostila, was born with gastroschisis. Cathy Adams

NSW Health to monitor birth defects

NSW health authorities will continue to monitor the high rate of gastroschisis in the Northern Rivers after an investigation found a high occurrence of the condition over a three-year period.

North Coast director of public health Paul Corben said planned improvements in the reporting of birth defects would mean authorities could “keep an eye” on the situation in the Northern Rivers.

Three babies were born within a 13-month period to families living within about a 10km radius of one another in the Stony Chute, Barkers Vale and Nimbin area.

There were also four other cases across the region within three years.

However, the department is standing by the investigation’s findings that the cluster was just a “random aggregation of cases” which did not require further investigation.

“If the rate continued like it has we would reinvestigate,” Mr Corben said.

Mr Corben has confirmed the investigation did not include a Stony Chute baby born with the condition on New Year’s Day because his birth fell outside the time frame they were examining.

This case was one of three babies born within 13 months.

The investigation also did not include a baby born to a woman who in 2010 was living in Byron Bay for 12 months when she discovered she was pregnant with a child with the condition.

Her case was not included because the baby was born in Sydney.

The findings of the investigation were presented to the parents of children with the condition in Lismore last week.

Jacqui McSkimming, the mother of a baby born with gastroschisis last year, learned at the meeting the investigation had wrongly included her as a resident of Lismore local government area when she actually lived in the Kyogle local government area.

Ms McSkimming said the error, along with two cases not being included, showed the investigation had not been thorough enough.

Mr Corben said he would consult with local pediatricians about how to improve reporting and would also push for more support for parents of children with the condition.

Gastroschisis is a birth defect in which babies are born with the intestinal contents freely protruding through a hole in their abdomen.


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