Report: maternity centre closure was based on incorrect data

The contentious decision to close Lumsden’s primary birthing unit was made using incorrect data and risked the safety of mothers and babies, a new report says.

The Lumsden Maternity Centre was closed last year as part of a region-wide review of maternity services by the Southern District Health Board, and replaced with a maternal and child hub.

The decision was strongly opposed by locals; a report by Ernst and Young commissioned by the board found numerous faults with how the SDHB implemented its maternity strategy.

The report’s terms of reference did not include the SDHB’s decision to create a hub at Lumsden.

That decision was the subject of the new report, which was written by midwifery academic Pauline Dawson and commissioned by Lumsden clinic operators the Northern Southland Medical Trust.

Ms Dawson said the closure went against the aims of the National Maternity Monitoring Group and the SDHB’s own primary health strategy.

‘‘This closure puts mothers and babies in this area at risk of poor short and long-term health outcomes and places additional burden of care on remote rural lead maternity carers.’’

Ms Dawson said when deciding to close Lumsden the SDHB did not correctly identify the catchment area the unit served, and ‘‘significant’’ numbers of mothers who had used it were not counted.

The SDHB had used birth numbers in its reports where it should have considered pregnancy numbers when assessing if it had met its Ministry service coverage schedule requirements, Ms Dawson said,

The Ministry itself used a document to support the decision in which travel times between centres were incorrect, and wrongly used the time to the closest primary facility rather than to a secondary service, as it should have, Ms Dawson said.

‘‘This error makes several locations appear as they are within service coverage schedule specifications, when they definitely are not.’’

Trust chairwoman Janese Priergaard-Petersen said the report confirmed many of the issues trustees had raised.

‘‘The decision was based on poor information and then executed poorly by the SDHB.

‘‘We don’t yet have any solid data on outcomes for mothers and babies, both in terms of births and postnatal care but we do know that mothers, and the lead maternity carer midwives who care for them, are struggling with the lack of support left by the closure of Lumsden Maternity.’’

An SDHB spokeswoman said the report was released late yesterday, and the SDHB needed time to consider it before commenting.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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