Maternity hub decision ‘alarm bells’

Hamish Walker
Hamish Walker
A downgrade of the Lumsden Maternity Centre to a maternal and child hub was decided before any public consultation took place, the MP for Clutha-Southland Hamish Walker has alleged.

Responses National MP Mr Walker received to an Official Information Act request showed "eight major alarm bells", he said yesterday.

They included the apparent predetermination to downgrade to a hub; a serious error in the interpretation of the coverage schedule; the Minister for Health "attempting to hide information which has been released by the Southern District Health Board"; an MP raising concern about emergency equipment two days after the downgrade; and the chief executive of the SDHB comments about a mother and midwife in an emergency roadside birth.

They further included advice to Health Minister David Clark and Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter about the risk to Te Anau mothers, who would have to travel further to get to a primary birthing facility if the Lumsden facility was downgraded.

The hub was announced in August 2018.

However, among the documents was a letter sent by a Ministry of Health adviser in March, five months before, saying following a review of Primary Maternity Services in 2017 a decision had been made to transition the Primary Maternity Unit, and the bed and birthing pool at the centre would not continue.

Other documents, written in February by a Ministry of Health staff member, revealed Lumsden had been regraded from a "birthing unit" to a "resource centre" — corrected to a "hub" — and said inpatient birthing services were due to stop at the hub in April.

Mr Walker claimed correspondence showed the decision to downgrade the Lumsden Maternity Centre was already made before consultation with the public on the decision, "with all the documents stating the downgrade was likely to go ahead."

Mr Walker said that was "only the beginning of the train wreck".

Another letter sent from SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said questions that should be asked about a roadside birth in May included whether it was appropriate the woman was still hours from the nearest secondary facility.

"Why was a known secondary birth still located in the remote area at the stage of the pregnancy? (i.e. was it appropriate that she was still hours away from the nearest secondary facility?)."

Yet another email revealed an SDHB employee saying the word emergency sounded like it was "when things go clinically wrong’’.

"The Southern District Health Board were also discussing what constitutes an emergency birth and that it should be called a rapid birth if the mother gives birth in a hub," Mr Walker said.

Correspondence from Government MP Liz Craig revealed her passing on concerns about the hub at Lumsden, including a lack of oxygen tanks, and only basic drugs.

"We’ve had a mother give birth on the side of the road and a birth in a car park. What is it going to take for this Government to admit they have got it wrong and reinstate full services at Lumsden Maternity Centre for the safety of the community?" Mr Walker said.

Comment has been sought from the SDHB, and from the office of Associate Minister for Health Julie Ann Genter.



I have been involve in dozens of "consultations" as a pharmacy contract holder. I am of the opinion that every "consultation" had a predetermination outcome. Personally I have submitted information that has been proven correct, but did not make the slightest deference. We have a Ministry full of paper shufflers with no real world understanding. Therefore I am not surprised by this revelation, it is stand practice. The consultation process is clearly only procedural requirement and never genuine.






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