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Queenstown mothers will be given more post-natal time with their babies in Lakes District Hospital under changes to be introduced by the Southern District Health Board in about six months.
The board yesterday announced changes to make sure an in-patient, post-birth care service was available year-round for mothers giving birth in the Frankton hospital, or transferred from another maternity centre.
Director of midwifery Jenny Humphries told the Otago Daily Times offering around-the-clock care would be a major improvement for Wakatipu mothers.
''Currently, it is not always possible for us to provide post-natal care for women wishing to use the service, due to limited staff availability,'' Ms Humphries said.
''This means mums and babies have to go elsewhere for post-natal care, or are unable to return to Lakes District Hospital after having their baby.
''We're looking at moving staff from our LMC [lead maternity carer] midwifery care way of operating into a greater capacity to staff our inpatient area.
''At the moment, the staffing availability has been somewhat erratic, but we're looking at having permanent people available on a rostered basis, 24/7, 365-days a year in the facility.''
Asked what prompted the change, Ms Humphries said lead maternity carers were historically employed as midwives in the Wakatipu because there were not many self-employed midwives in the area.
Lakes District Hospital was one of the last hospitals in New Zealand to provide a LMC service with employed midwives, she said.
''We have been doing this when it has not been required in the rest of the country, so now the Queenstown Lakes district is in a position where there are a number of self-employed midwives in the area who can provide this service and we no longer as a DHB have to provide that service, so we can concentrate on providing a really good inpatient post-natal service for women.''
Between 50 and 70 babies are born in Lakes District Hospital every year, a fraction of the number of babies born to women who live in the Wakatipu.
Plunket birth figures estimated about 300 children will turn 5 in 2014.
Ms Humphries said she hoped the improved and consistent maternity services would give more mothers-to-be the confidence to give birth in the hospital in Frankton, close to home and family, instead of travelling to another faraway primary unit, or Invercargill or Dunedin hospitals.
The new service model was expected to change board-employed midwife roles and consultation is under way with maternity unit staff, the Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service and the New Zealand Nurses' Organisation.