Ire over claim review not independent

Janese Priergaard-Petersen
Janese Priergaard-Petersen
The frosty relationship between the former operators of the Lumsden Maternity Clinic and the Southern District Health Board shows little sign of thawing, the trust reacting angrily to suggestions by board chief executive Chris Fleming that a trust-commissioned review of the SDHB’s decision to recategorise the unit was not "genuinely independent".

The report, by midwifery academic Pauline Dawson, was released last week.

It found the SDHB’s decision to replace Lumsden’s primary birthing unit with a maternal and child hub was based on incorrect data and had put mothers and babies at risk.

In Saturday’s Otago Daily Times Mr Fleming said the review had "obvious shortcomings", such as not consulting all stakeholders, which meant the report "cannot be viewed as being genuinely independent".

Northern Southland Medical Trust chairwoman Janese Priergaard-Petersen said Mr Fleming was attempting to discredit the report to avoid addressing serious issues raised by the SDHB’s decision to close the Lumsden Maternity Clinic.

"Pauline [Dawson] absolutely is, and always has been, totally independent of the medical trust... and any challenge to her independence is totally unwarranted."

In the report foreword Ms Dawson wrote: "This is an independent piece of work completed by the author on a voluntary basis for the trust."

The report went on to say consultation with the trust, the local community and iwi had been "suboptimal".

"There have been many email and telephone communications between individuals in the SDHB and individuals in the community, e.g. trust members, health providers and lead maternity carers.

"These ad hoc communications do not appear to have been part of an open and transparent formal communication strategy and much confusion and cross-communication arose with conflicting information and interpretations disseminated."

Alongside the report’s terms of reference Ms Dawson said she would need access to trust minutes and correspondence with the SDHB.

"Key stakeholder interviews with trust members, former employees of the trust related to the maternity centre, members of the maternity workforce in the area and consumers will be essential."

Ms Priergaard-Petersen said it was ironic Mr Fleming had raised the issue of lack of consultation given the SDHB’s "major shortcomings" in that area.

"Despite Mr Fleming’s defensive attitude, the trust are confident that the incoming SDHB board members will come to their own conclusions on the matter," she said.

Mr Fleming said all affected parties, including the trust, had met regularly in recent months to discuss maternity service provision, and that would continue.

"We appreciate that there remains considerable interest in the area of primary maternity and we are committed to ensure we continue to improve services across the district," he said.

"However, this is a tough challenging area where we will have to make some difficult decisions in months and years ahead.”


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