Anger at SDHB's assurances on changed maternity services

Lumsden Maternity Centre. Photo: Guy Williams
Lumsden Maternity Centre. Photo: Guy Williams
Lumsden and Te Anau have been left "fearful, angry and insulted" by the Southern District Health Board's assurances its newly established child and maternal hubs will meet the needs of the region's mothers, a local midwife says.

As part of the SDHB's region-wide maternity plan a child and maternal hub has been set up at Te Anau and the primary birthing unit in Lumsden has become a hub.

SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming and other DHB executives have said they recognised the deeply-held feelings of those communities and offered assurances the hubs would meet their needs.

However, the decision to alter services in Lumsden remains under Parliamentary scrutiny, and its health select committee is considering a petition to save Lumsden Maternity Centre.

Nicky Pealing, an experienced midwife and a member of the SDHB's maternity quality safety committee, said in a letter to Mr Fleming also sent to media, that no amount of expensive and new equipment could replace the maternity service the SDHB had taken away.

"I am beyond disappointed that this SDHB cannot and will not see that the provision of maternity services for rural woman goes way beyond urgent, emergency services with fancy expensive equipment," Mrs Pealing, one of a group of Southland women who appeared before the health select committee earlier this month, said.

"Equitable access across this large, rural SDHB should not mean that all expectant mothers have to travel vast distances to primary centres already served by a base hospital."

Mrs Pealing, who is temporarily working as a midwife in the area as leave cover, said Lumsden Maternity Centre had been a hub for mothers and midwives, but was now a shell of its former self.

"The place is empty, there is no joy, no laughter, no wonderful cooking smells emanating from the kitchen, no new baby cries, no-one to share a chat or a cuppa with.

"The place is cold, there are mice plainly heard and seen, especially in the kitchen."

The SDHB had had more than a year to implement child and maternal hubs at Lumsden and Te Anau, but had "failed miserably" to even formulate what a hub would look like and how it would work, Mrs Pealing said.

"Your child and maternal hubs are not fit for purpose.

"It is time to accept this was not the best decision made and rectify it before a catastrophe happens."

The SDHB's plans were endorsed by the Ministry of Health as meeting service requirements and as supporting rural maternity provision throughout the whole district.

The board has said it was continuing to work with midwives and the Ministry of Health to support the sustainability of services.

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