Plea from GP for pain relief drug at maternal and child hub

A plea from a Te Anau GP that the Southern District Health Board add a common pain relief drug to the medicines available at the Lumsden maternal and child hub will be considered.

Dr Matthew Stokes made his request to the SDHB in August, just after an early morning birth where a mother opted to give birth at Winton — where Entonox (nitrous oxide) was available — rather than at Lumsden, where the SDHB had decided not to stock the drug.

The child’s father then drove his wife 50km to Winton, in -2degC temperatures with the roads covered in heavy frost.

An email from Dr Stokes to SDHB chief nursing and midwifery officer Jane Wilson said the father’s car had reached speeds of up to 120kmh, and the midwife following behind him struggled to keep up.

After she reached Winton, the midwife realised the mother had been on all fours in the back of the vehicle, without wearing a seatbelt.

"You could imagine the uproar if there had been an accident," Dr Stokes wrote.

"Fortunately they did not hit a patch of black ice."

Dr Stokes’ email — which was released under the Official Information Act — urged the SDHB to reconsider its stance on stocking nitrous oxide at Lumsden following the incident.

SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said the Lumsden hub still did not provide Entonox, but that might change.

"This position was based on initial advice from Ministry of Health, that as the Lumsden Maternal and Child Hub is not a primary birthing unit, it would be more appropriate to contain supplies comparable with those a lead maternity carer would carry with her for a home birth, for example.

"However, as part of the process of stakeholders working together on models of care for the hubs, this position has been proposed for review."

Lumsden’s maternity centre became a hub after a region-wide review of maternity services by the SDHB.

An independent review of the implementation of the board’s maternity strategy found equipment which was meant to be in hubs did not arrive before they opened, plus widespread confusion about services.

Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker, who has long campaigned for the restoration of a primary birthing unit at Lumsden, said the situation described by Dr Stokes should never have happened.

"It is incredibly sad that this Government is forcing rural mothers, fathers and babies to be put at risk, and in this case, break the law to get themselves in a position where they feel safe and comfortable giving birth."


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