Promise to battle on for maternity services

Photo: ODT files
Lumsden Maternity Centre. Photo: ODT files
The owners of Lumsden Maternity Centre say they will continue to fight for better maternity services in Northern Southland, despite the disappointment of Parliament's health select committee not voting to restore the town's primary birthing unit.

On Thursday the committee issued its report on local MP Hamish Walker's petition to save the centre.

While not recommending that the former primary birthing unit, which the Southern District Health Board regraded as a "maternal and child hub" as part of a region-wide review of maternity services, have its status restored, MPs did harshly criticise the SDHB's handling of the transition to a hub.

Carrie Adams, a trustee of centre owners the Northern Southland Medical Trust (NSMT), said the organisation was now turning its attention to its future strategic direction.

"This will involve creating a vision of what the NSMT consider the key points to focus on to support maternal and health care in Northern Southland, and then engaging with our community to ensure these are shared goals.

"This will involve collaborative discussions with Te Anau."

While unhappy the report did not back their cause, the trust noted there was support across the political spectrum for its view that the hubs were not fit for purpose at the time they opened.

"In the report Labour also introduces the expectation that the SDHB ensure the ongoing provision of 24-hour midwifery cover for urgent births," Ms Adams said.

"Whilst this has been implemented on a short-term, stopgap basis, the NSMT agree that this cover is imperative for the long term in order to ensure safety for midwives, mothers and babies and therefore welcome this ... given this 24-hour staffing requirement, it is paramount that it be explored whether the `hub model' is the best template for Lumsden."

Mr Walker said while he was frustrated he had not been able to have Lumsden returned to being a primary birthing unit, the select committee's report supported many of the arguments he and other campaigners had raised.

"The report is damning, it proves what the community has been saying for the past year," Mr Walker said

"Despite its findings, it is incredibly disappointing that Government MPs are continuing to support the rollout of the unsafe hub model."

Northern Southland mothers were being treated like "second-class citizens" and the report clearly showed the maternal hubs being set up by the SDHB had put them at risk, he said.

"The journey doesn't stop here; the fight will continue," Mr Walker said.

The SDHB has commissioned two independent reports into matters related to maternity services.

Chief executive Chris Fleming said the issues raised in the select committee report were greater than just the Southern DHB: "we have to work with our partners".

The board was working with the Ministry of Health, lead maternity care midwives, the College of Midwives, GPs, local hospitals and emergency responders to design a maternity system that met the needs of the community.

"Together we are making good progress."

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