Telemedicine clinics loss slated by MP

Jacqui Dean
Jacqui Dean
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean has slammed moves that mean Central Otago women can no longer access a new Wanaka maternity telemedicine clinic.

She has called for an ''honest assessment'' of maternity service needs in Alexandra, Cromwell and Clyde.

Mrs Dean yesterday released a statement saying the Wanaka-based service had been going for only two months when it was cut to Central Otago mothers at the end of February this year. The service was still operating for Wanaka women, she said.

Mrs Dean said the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) had advised the service allowing women needing special support to complete a videoconference with a specialist at Queen Mary Maternity Centre, was cancelled because of capacity and resource constraints.

Midwives from Alexandra and Cromwell had been able to refer women from across Central Otago to the new service.

Central Otago women had ''the rug [pulled] from underneath them''. ''These women want and deserve a telemedicine clinic in Cromwell, Alexandra or Clyde, or at least ... access to Wanaka's.''

The situation reflected maternity service pressure in Central Otago, she said.

''The SDHB has had information from Statistics New Zealand, which it included in its Primary Maternity Report of May 2017, showing that the number of birth-age women in Central Otago was set to increase between 2018 and 2043, resulting in a projected 17-18% rise in live births, and yet it has done little to support this growth.''

Alexandra, Cromwell and Clyde needed an ''honest'' assessment of maternity services, Mrs Dean said.

DHB strategy primary and community executive director Lisa Gestro said the Wanaka obstetrics telemedicine clinics had been ''very well-received''.

She said the monthly clinics had played an important role helping provide additional access to specialist services for pregnant women in the Wanaka area.

''In addition to the monthly clinics in Wanaka, there are weekly telemedicine clinics at Lakes District Hospital in Queenstown and regular in-person clinics at Dunstan Hospital in Clyde.

''As is the case across the district, expectant mothers in the Central Lakes area may also be referred to Dunedin or Invercargill ... [for specialists].''

She said ''at present'', the Wanaka telemedicine clinics are ''principally'' intended for women in the greater Wanaka area but the health board was working with its specialist services to be able to offer more telemedicine clinics to an even greater number of women.

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