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A Central Otago midwife has spoken out about maternity services in the district and invited the Prime Minister and Health Minister to visit the region ''to get a better understanding of what women and midwives are facing on a daily basis''.
Suzanne MacIntosh, of Lake Dunstan Midwives, said recent staff shortages at Alexandra's Charlotte Jean Maternity Hospital highlighted the ''ever-increasing crisis'' the maternity sector faced.
''The services are ever-increasingly stretched, inequitable and often lacking in order to support women and the midwives. Significant changes and actions need to happen urgently ... to reduce the haemorrhage of women travelling to Dunedin to 'feel safe' and midwives leaving the profession and local area due to unsustainable working conditions and pay.''
Ms MacIntosh said lead maternity carer midwives continued ''to provide the best care we possibly can in challenging circumstances and the rural environment''.
The Ministry of Health needed to be ''listening and taking action'' to ensure birthing centres and support services were ''always available'' to support women to give birth close to their home, she said.
Ms MacIntosh said she wanted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark to visit midwives and primary birthing units in Central Otago to better understand ''what women and midwives are facing on a daily basis''.
No response was received from the Ms Ardern's office to questions about Ms MacIntosh's invitation.
A statement from the office of Dr Clark said he had ''recently changed the health delegations'' and Associate Minister Julie Anne Genter was now responsible for maternity services.
A statement from Ms Genter's office said she was taking maternity services ''seriously''.
''I am continuing to meet with key stakeholders as it is clear change is needed. Southern DHB have questions to answer about how they will ensure pregnant women, new mothers and their babies get the care they need.''
Ms Genter said the 2018 and 2019 budgets had a ''long overdue'' 14% pay increase to midwives.
She said, ''I have asked the Ministry of Health what else we can do and I will continue to advocate for women's health.''
No response to questions sent to the health board was received, but previous statements from health board executive director strategy, primary and community, Lisa Gestro, said the health board had lifted its funding to Charlotte Jean by 13% in the past 10 months, recognising the need for it to offer competitive salaries.