Confusion over child hubs shown in emails

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Newly released Ministry of Health emails concerning the Southern District Health Board's maternity strategy reveal the degree of confusion which surrounded the board's introduction of "maternal and child hubs".

The emails, a February briefing to parliamentary staff from the ministry about the SDHB's primary maternity strategy, said the board was introducing "Maternity Resource Centres" in Lumsden and Wanaka - locations where residents had been told hubs would be established.

"Note the new term Maternity Resource Centre," the email said.

"This has been introduced as it is a better descriptor of the service that will be provided in Lumsden and Wanaka."

However, a day later a clarification email was sent out, to expunge the new terminology.

"The term 'resource centre' is NOT to be used," the ministry's follow-up email said.

"This was provided to me by a new member of staff who didn't realise the importance of changing terms and the sensitivity behind this."

The SDHB's maternity strategy was highly controversial, and resulted in it commissioning an independent report into its implementation.

The Ernst and Young report, released a week ago, was highly critical of the strategy's roll-out, and particularly highlighted turmoil caused by the lack of defined standards and an agreed purpose for hubs.

"The lack of a standard model of care or operational design has introduced confusion and misaligned expectations with key stakeholders and communities, to varying degrees."

The maternity strategy, especially its proposal to replace the primary birthing unit in Lumsden with a hub, was hotly debated.

The ministry email said the SDHB was proposing to run the Lumsden Maternity Centre premises as a maternity resource centre, staffed one day a week.

"It will provide information to the community about options for maternity and well child care, with potential to develop a obstetric telemedicine clinic, breastfeeding support and other pregnancy/new family community services.

"It will retain emergency response preparedness with medications and equipment accessible to local lead maternity carer midwives in emergencies."

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, who took a petition to Parliament which called for Lumsden's maternity services to be saved, said the emails showed why no-one knew what the Lumsden Maternity Centre hub was meant to be.

"It is all smoke and mirrors from the DHB, who were intent on offering as little services as possible at Lumsden from the beginning as a resource centre," he said.

"The documents state a resource centre is the term to be used and it's a better descriptor of what the new hub actually is ... the name was changed promptly by a manager at the Ministry of Health, which just shows how haphazard the planning of the new failed model of maternity care has been."

Mr Walker said Health Minister David Clark needed to say if he stood by comments that the mothers and babies of Southland were better serviced.

"Quite clearly the review last week and mothers moving out of Southland suggest otherwise," Mr Walker said.

"Lumsden needs to have full services reinstated for the safety of rural mothers and babies rather than using it as a testing ground while the Health Minister and DHB work out what a hub is."

Last week in Parliament the Government said it would ask the Ministry of Health to provide "strong oversight" over the SDHB's maternity services.

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