Planners clarify maternity services

Planners have released extra details of maternity services in the new Dunedin hospital, after midwives raised concerns about proposed bed numbers in the facility.

The detailed business case for the $1.47billion project has still not been released publicly, although the Cabinet Paper the Government based its sign-off on has been.

That paper said the current hospital had 21 maternity beds, and the new building would have 24.

At present, Queen Mary has 22 postnatal beds, 10 antenatal beds, seven labour and birth rooms, one theatre suite, and clinic and outpatient beds and services, and the figures in the Cabinet paper left local midwives concerned that any improvements in their working space would be minimal at best.

In response, the Ministry of Health has provided further, more detailed information on maternity services planned for the new hospital.

A spokeswoman said it would have 47 total dedicated inpatient maternity beds.

"The service will also have one purpose-built, dedicated room for delivery of babies lost, and for bereaved whanau," the spokeswoman said.

"There will also be more beds in the new Dunedin Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, 30 compared to the current 25 at Queen Mary."

New Zealand College of Midwives Otago Regional co-chairwoman Charlie Ferris welcomed the clarification on bed numbers from the ministry, and said the increase would be well received.

Queen Mary had a mix of shared and single bedrooms and clients would appreciate and benefit from the ministry’s plan for the 24 antenatal and postnatal bedrooms to be single rooms, she said.

"Generally midwives are looking forward to working in an improved setting," Ms Ferris said.

"However, there is still general disappointment among midwives regarding the primary birthing unit being ‘on site' — they have voiced a preference for a separate unit to enhance some of the benefits of low risk women birthing away from the tertiary setting."

Ms Ferris said midwives had ongoing concerns with staffing issues, and she feared an increasing southern population would make make demand for the few midwives in the area even greater.

"This will get worse without significant improvements to pay or working conditions and a new hospital will not resolve these staffing issues."

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