SDHB has money to 'reflect community wishes’

Health Minister Julie Anne Genter says money is available to reflect the public’s wishes over the former Lumsden maternity centre. Photo: ODT files
Health Minister Julie Anne Genter says money is available to reflect the public’s wishes over the former Lumsden maternity centre. Photo: ODT files
Money is available for the Southern District Health Board to ‘‘reflect the wishes of the community’’ regarding maternity services, Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter says.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker yesterday released a collection of documents obtained under the Official Information Act, which he said highlighted major concerns with the way the SDHB conducted its review of the implementation of its region-wide review of maternity services.

Mr Walker, who took a petition to Parliament which called for maternity services in Lumsden to be saved after the SDHB proposed changing its primary birthing unit to a maternity hub, said the documents showed the board had decided to close the unit before consulting publicly on the issue.

Ms Genter said the review, an independent assessment by accountancy firm EY, showed that the SDHB did not bring the community along with its changes from 2016 onwards.

Also, it did not have a viable substitute in place before downgrading the birthing unit in Lumsden, Ms Genter said.

“The DHB has a lot of work to do to regain people’s trust, particularly in northern Southland,’’ she said.

“I expect all of the [report] recommendations to be implemented by the DHB.’’

The SDHB began its review of maternity services in an attempt to ensure the right services were in the right places to service the greatest number of people.

However, the changes have proven controversial, with not only Lumsden but Wanaka residents petitioning Parliament over their maternity services.

Ms Genter said the Government had put an extra $37.8million into the SDHB.

‘‘There is also an extra $5million nationally for rural workforce, including $500,000 for rural midwives,’’ she said.

‘‘There is more money available for the locally elected DHB to make funding decisions to reflect the wishes of the community.”

Mr Walker said continuing issues for northern Southland mothers — including a woman who last week gave birth before she reached a primary birthing unit — demonstrated that Health Minister David Clark did not value rural mothers and babies.

‘‘Pregnant mothers should not have additional fear during a very stressful time.

‘‘He needs to hold his department to account and ensure they are delivering the basics to rural mothers and babies.”

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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