Mothers turned away from understaffed ward

Oamaru Hospital
Oamaru Hospital
New mothers who had given birth in Dunedin have since been turned away from Oamaru Hospital's maternity ward because of staff shortages, Waitaki District Health Services has confirmed.

During the past week, concerns have been raised on social media that parents who wanted post-natal care had been unable to do so because maternity services were not open or there was a shortage of staff.

It was also claimed staff were working long hours to make up the shortfall and that patient safety was being put at risk.

In a response to questions from the Otago Daily Times, Waitaki District Health Services chief executive Ruth Kibble acknowledged staffing at the maternity ward was an issue.

"We are experiencing shortages across some shifts and are working through plans to address this with the district health board and our maternity leads. We continue to attempt to recruit midwifery positions, and have positions advertised.

"This does mean that some midwives have worked longer shifts than normal."

She said in some instances, midwives from outside Oamaru had been used to cover shifts.

Ms Kibble confirmed there had been times when admissions to the maternity ward had been put on hold.

"As a result of some shifts where we are short of staff, we have at times not been able to receive admissions from Dunedin for women from this area who give birth in Dunedin to return to Oamaru prior to going home.

"The reason for this is we wish to ensure patient safety and if we are not able to have adequate staffing, then such measures as this are required."

She said staff were "working extremely hard" in trying circumstances. Maternity staff shortages was an issue in hospitals around the country.

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