Maternity petition put on hold

Hamish Walker
Hamish Walker
A petition challenging the Southern District Health Board's decision to downgrade the status of the Lumsden Maternity Centre has been put on hold.

The petition, in the name of Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, is being considered by the health select committee, and a fortnight ago the National MP gave written evidence in support of it.

However, yesterday Mr Walker said his petition was now suspended, as there was the chance of legal action over possible downgrade.

The SDHB unveiled a new maternity plan in March, but proposed service changes sparked intense controversy - especially in Lumsden, where locals organised protests and petitions against plans to change the township's facility to a ''maternal and child hub'' rather than retain it as a primary birthing unit.

In October the SDHB announced some boosts in payments to midwives and extensions to services as a result of feedback on the plan, but decided to press ahead with Lumsden becoming a hub.

The centre is owned by the Northern Southland Health Company charity, which has been mulling over a possible legal challenge for some months.

Yesterday NSHC director Carrie Adams said they were still in discussion with lawyers about any possible application for judicial review of the downgrade decision.

''We are waiting for a reply from the SDHB to our solicitors over explanations for what we think are deficiencies, and that will determine our next step,'' she said.

''No application has been filed yet ... but we are certainly still talking to our solicitors about our best option.''

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