Maternity centre exploring ‘legal avenues’

Lumsden Maternity Centre. Photo: Guy Williams
Lumsden Maternity Centre. Photo: Guy Williams
The fight to save the Lumsden Maternity Centre’s birthing unit is not over yet.

In August, the Southern District Health Board decided to downgrade the centre from a primary birthing unit to a "maternal and child hub" as part of its new maternity strategy, in spite of much public outcry.

Carrie Smith, chairwoman of the Northern Southland Health Company — a charity which owns and operates the Lumsden Maternity Centre — said the company was currently taking "legal avenues" to get the decision to downgrade the facility reviewed and overturned by the government’s health select committee.

At this stage, the birthing unit had enough funding to stay open until February, at which point it would change to a "maternal and child hub".

"After a meeting with the DHB last week we understand the hub to mean there will be an emergency kit there if somebody can’t get to a birthing facility. It will have offices for midwives to have anti-natal appointments and teleconferences with obstetricians.

"It’s huge [to lose the birthing unit]. It’s not just the little old town of Lumsden — we’re talking about Te Anau, which is growing hugely at the moment, and Kingston, which is likely to have over 900 sections for young families without any birthing unit nearby.

"We’re not selfish enough to think this is just about Lumsden — it’s a district wide issue. People are trying to move from the city to the country and this is pulling the chair right from under that."

However, she remained cautious in her response to the announcement from Otago National Party MPs Michael Woodhouse and Hamish Walker yesterday that the party would reinstate full services to the centre if elected in 2020.

"We’re really supportive of the message but the main thing we’re hearing from the community is to keep the facility open without any political party involvement.

"It’s important to note we’re in a position where we have to work with the coalition government through the DHB and keep relations positive. While we’re totally supportive of what Hamish Walker’s announcement entails, we’re in a position where we can work with all governments, and that’s what we’re trying to do."

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