New mothers spending less time in hospital

The Southern District Health Board is playing down figures showing new mothers are on average spending less time in Dunedin Hospital despite funding to allow longer stays.

The board said the funding targeted those who needed extra time and support.

In 2012-13, the board received $755,576 for the initiative.

A national table of figures released by Labour Party health spokeswoman Annette King shows new mothers in the Southern health board district stayed an average 2.41 days in hospital in 2012-13, compared with 2.5 days in 2009-10.

At Dunedin Hospital, the stay was 7.44 hours less, compared with an extra 1.66 hours in Southland. Length of stay at each hospital site was not provided separately.

The $103.5 million four-year initiative was announced in the 2009 Budget.

As well as $38.5 million for longer hospital stays for new mothers, the package funded support for at-risk mothers during pregnancy, training for GPs wishing to return to maternity care, meeting the cost of increasing numbers of births each year and PlunketLine.

Ms King said in a press release the funding designed to allow new mothers to stay up to an additional two days in a birthing facility had ''backfired''. Many average stays around the country were shorter than four years ago, and others only slightly longer.

''The money was never ring-fenced and no audit of it has ever been carried out, so where was it used?''

Health board patient services director Lexie O'Shea said the extra support was for mothers who felt they needed it.

''This smaller group of women included those who've had Caesarean sections, or who feel they need extra support to help establish breast-feeding, or just need to gain confidence in caring for their baby before returning home.''

The figures included women who had been discharged to a rural birthing unit, she said.

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