Residents march in support of maternity centre

"One, two, three, four, rural mums deserve more", was the chant heard in the streets of Lumsden on Saturday morning.

About 350 adults and children marched through the small town to protest the proposed downgrade of the Lumsden Maternity Centre.

It is a primary birthing unit but if changes mooted by the Southern District Health Board are implemented it would become a "non-birthing hub".

Farmers Alastair and Tessa Hamilton, of Lumsden, who took part in the march with their 4-week-old baby Nicholas and have used the centre, were worried about what it meant for their future family.

"For us, we live here and were going to continue living here. Obviously, we've had our first child but where do we go with our next one? Or the one after that?

"The community that's turned out here today shows that everybody appreciates it and uses it," Mr Hamilton said.

About 350 people marched through Lumsden's streets on Saturday to protest the proposed downgrade...
About 350 people marched through Lumsden's streets on Saturday to protest the proposed downgrade of the Lumsden Maternity Centre. Photo: Mandy Cooper
Despite their concerns, the couple thought their situation was not as bad as for people living in places like Te Anau, a two-hour drive from Southland Hospital, in Invercargill.

The protest route started at the town's community hall in Hill St, went along Garden St and finished at the maternity centre.

Sarah Stokes, the centre's midwife, Carrie Smith, chairwoman of the Northern Southland Health Company - a charity which owns and operates the centre, and Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker were at the front of the protest.

Farmers Alastair and Tessa Hamilton of Lumsden wanted to see the Lumsden Maternity Centre stay...
Farmers Alastair and Tessa Hamilton of Lumsden wanted to see the Lumsden Maternity Centre stay the same. Photo: Mandy Cooper
Addressing the crowd following the march Ms Smith said it was a case of "urban-rural divide".

"Closure would deprive our community of services that are taken for granted in larger towns."

Mrs Stokes followed by saying she did not want to see women giving birth in cars on "cold frosty nights".

She looks after mothers throughout Southland, from Lumsden, Gore, Te Anau and Winton. Most of her clients are between one and a-half and two and a-half hours away from Southland Hospital.

About 3500 people have signed a petition, started by Mr Walker, in favour of keeping the facility as it is.

He said if the changes were implemented it would be like "ripping the heart out of Lumsden".

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