MP says SDHB must 'front up'

Hamish Walker.
Hamish Walker.
The decision to hire a new midwife for the Lumsden maternal and child hub shows the Southern District Health Board made a mistake when it downgraded its status as a primary birthing unit, Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker says.

A meeting of interested parties in Gore last week ended with a decision to hire an extra short-term on-call midwife to help address the sudden increase of emergency births in the northern Southland area.

Advocates for reinstating Lumsden as a primary birthing centre argue the decision to change it to a hub, made by the SDHB in its region-wide review of maternity services, should be reversed.

''The SDHB needs to front up and admit they have misread the risk in downgrading the Lumsden Maternity Centre,'' Mr Walker said.

''It's incredibly disheartening that even though the College of Midwives has had to take this step to protect rural women, after four women have given birth in emergency situations, the SDHB will not admit they have made the wrong decision and as a result are putting rural people's health and safety at risk.''

Hiring the extra midwife meant the hub was ''already 70% there'' towards the service level the former maternity centre had offered, and it would make sense if the SDHB simply reinstated full services in Lumsden, Mr Walker said.

''As the midwife will be stationed there fulltime it would make sense to have her work. It would also make sense to have post-natal stays available again, so women can stay in their communities after giving birth.''

Mr Walker said he expected Parliament's health select committee would make a decision next week on its stance regarding his petition which calls for Lumsden Maternity Centre to be saved.

Regardless of the committee's decision, there should be an independent inquiry into the SDHB's decision to alter service levels at Lumsden, Mr Walker said.

''The downgrade decision was made on flawed, data as well as incorrect facts being provided to the Health Select Committee.

''It's time the wrongs were undone, which may go some way in easing the community's distrust in the health system.''

The SDHB already has two ongoing independent reviews related to the Lumsden Maternity Centre; a ''mid-point implementation review'' of the overall regional maternity services strategy, and a review specifically on the four recent emergency births.

SDHB strategy, primary and community executive director Lisa Gestro said at last week's meeting participants agreed additional short-term support for local lead maternity carer (LMC) midwives was needed.

''There was agreement that this was a shared issue, and not one that fell to the DHB alone to solve,'' Mrs Gestro said.

''Options that were discussed ... were many and varied, but it was agreed by all that these would take time and facilitation to work through.''

Hiring an additional LMC was ''the most pragmatic approach'' she said, but it might not be the long-term or permanent arrangement.

''It is too early to say the form this will take, and this is quite different from a 24/7 roster of midwives to staff the hub, which was previously the arrangement ... and not sustainable for fewer than one birth per week.''


Not sustainable at fewer than one birth a week but do they factor into costings of these types, the cost of damage to a new born, the cost of risk or is it just costings of equivalent ways to spend the budget?. It would be good to have open governance and the costings and reviews, so the public can evaluate not just the Health review committe. I see no reason why the public does not have access to this material affecting maternal Rural Health or any Health in the community review of services. If it stands up as a good review the findings hold up too and we, the public and consumer are informed and supportive.