Maternity centre status call inquiry rejected

Michael Woodhouse. Photo: NZ Herald/file
Michael Woodhouse. Photo: NZ Herald/file
Parliament's health select committee has rejected calls from National for an inquiry into the Southern District Health Board's decision to change Lumsden Maternity Centre's status from a primary birthing unit to a maternal and child hub.

However, Government MPs on the committee strongly criticised the SDHB for not having the new hub up and running before the unit closed.

Northern Southland locals have been fighting what they see as a downgrade of services, brought about by the SDHB's regionwide review of maternity services.

The committee, which contains four Government and four National MPs, tied 4-4, meaning a bid by National Party health spokesman Michael Woodhouse that the committee conduct an inquiry into the Lumsden decision was rejected.

Central Otago New Zealand First list MP Mark Patterson, who has sat on the committee for the Lumsden matter, said the inquiry bid was an exercise in looking backwards.

''New Zealand First remains focused on supporting the women of Southland to ensure they have access to high-quality maternity care and holding the Southern DHB to account for the shambles which has resulted from the downgrading of the Lumsden Maternity Centre last year.''

Invercargill Labour list MP Liz Craig said it was essential Northern Southland women had access to high-quality maternity services, and she shared the local community's concern the centre was downgraded before promised hubs in both Lumsden and Te Anau were fully operational.

''I welcome the [SDHB-commissioned] review into the implementation of Southern DHB's model of care and would expect that at minimum, this would ensure the appropriate equipment is available at Lumsden and Te Anau and that midwifery cover is available at all times for urgent births.''

The committee has been considering a 5000-signature petition from Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker for some months, and yesterday again stalled on making a decision on it.

Mr Walker said voting down Mr Woodhouse's inquiry proposal was ''absolutely ludicrous'' as four mothers in the region had had emergency births in recent weeks.

''The wrong decision was made in downgrading the Lumsden Maternity Centre, but instead of putting the people first, the Government is putting itself first.

''The truth will come out that the centre should not have been downgraded. I just hope the unthinkable does not happen before it does.''

The SDHB has commissioned two independent inquiries: a ''midpoint implementation review'' of the overall regional maternity services strategy, and a review specifically on the four emergency births.

Last month, it was agreed an extra short-term on-call midwife would be employed at Lumsden.

SDHB strategy, primary and community executive director Lisa Gestro said she was pleased the committee backed the SDHB's inquiry processes.

''Providing sustainable maternity services in rural areas is challenging for a range of reasons and requires a whole of system approach,'' she said.

''Addressing this constructively is a better use of our resources than relitigating a decision around a specific facility, and we are pleased the committee has recognised this.''

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