Another Lumsden birth crisis

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
Lumsden's maternal and child hub had another emergency birth on Friday night, as locals continue to argue childbirth facilities in Northern Southland are inadequate and unsafe.

The Otago Daily Times understands only one midwife was able to be present for the birth, which happened on Friday afternoon.

Mother and child are both well, but the birth was so rapid that a primary birthing unit could not be reached - which meant a second midwife should have been present, the ODT was told.

The Lumsden Maternity Centre was formerly a primary birthing unit, but became a hub as part of the Southern District Health Board's region-wide review of maternity services.

There have been several emergency births since the change in service level; the SDHB has commissioned a report on the earlier incidents, expected to be released soon.

Just days before Friday's birth, a short-term temporary midwife had finished a contract to provide cover in Lumsden.

A new system is being trialled whereby local midwives can be contacted through an online message group if help is needed.

The ODT understands the system was not used on Friday night.

The system was one of several attempts to improve maternity services for Northern Southland women introduced by a stakeholders group, chaired by Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks.

Mr Hicks said yesterday he had few details of what he termed a "rapid birth", other than everyone being well afterwards.

"From what I understand, it all went according to plan and there were no dramas.

"Before I comment further, I would probably want to know more details, but from what I know, both mother and baby are well."

Meanwhile, a pregnant Fiordland woman has said ongoing safety concerns have led her to leave the district to give birth.

"I'm feeling the pressure/being guilt-tripped by health professionals to coincide my existence to be near a hospital (`plan' my labour') without any financial aid being offered to me to do," the woman, speaking anonymously, said in a community newsletter supplied to the ODT.

"Since labour typically happens within a five-week window of 37-42 weeks, to coincide my existence to be near a hospital during that time frame is something that a regular working family can not afford."

The woman, who had had a previous "traumatic" birth, said she had family she could stay with; if she had not, the accommodation costs of moving closer to a hospital would have exceeded $5000.

"Shutting Lumsden was both illogical and irresponsible for fiscal and health reasons," the woman said.

"I believe financial reimbursement for hardship induced on mums and bubs by the SDHB's poor decisions on maternity care is in order."

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, who has campaigned to maintain Lumsden's status as a primary birthing unit, said it was unacceptable mothers felt compelled to leave their homes due to concerns whether they could give birth safely or not.

"Pregnant women have contacted me stressed and upset that the relationship they've built with their local midwife counts for nothing if they relocate to give birth away from their homes at better resourced services.

"The Government doesn't need a long-winded process to fix this. It needs to listen to the community by reinstating full services instead of ignoring the obvious."

Mr Hicks said the steering group he facilitated involved all the key players, and its last meeting was productive.

"We all left feeling like we were moving in the right direction."



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