'It is Russian roulette' without birthing unit nearby

Newborn Makai Taylor James with mother Kristi James and father Mick Coonrod. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Newborn Makai Taylor James with mother Kristi James and father Mick Coonrod. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A Wanaka woman who gave birth on the floor of her midwife’s office last year cried as she told Southern District Health Board staff about her experience.

Kristi James was one of several women who spoke at an SDHB public meeting in Wanaka yesterday held to hear feedback on four options for future primary birthing facilities in the Central Otago and Wanaka region.

Ms James said women were suffering because they were having babies in places that were not fit for purpose.

"It is Russian roulette. How much longer are you going to allow this to happen?"

Kristi James shed tears as she described how she gave birth on the floor of her midwife’s office...
Kristi James shed tears as she described how she gave birth on the floor of her midwife’s office last year. PHOTO: KERRIE WATERWORTH

She had wanted to give birth in Dunedin Hospital, but instead her child was born on her midwife’s office floor after she went into labour early.

SDHB general manager primary and population health Mary Cleary Lyons said the Wanaka meeting was organised following a very high online response rate in the second round of submissions on the four options.

"Online submissions officially closed on August 22 but we want to keep listening. The response from this part of the district has been overwhelming, which is why we are here."

Ms Cleary Lyons said the two options that received the most online votes included keeping the Charlotte Jean maternity facility in Alexandra and putting a primary birthing unit in Wanaka.

Submitters were asked what the most important factors to take into account were.

Travel times were the first (Wanaka is three and a-half hours from the nearest base hospital) and expedited transport care and emergency were the second.

Wanaka midwife Emma Bilous started the first midwifery practice based in Wanaka in the 1990s and said Wanaka passed the required number of births for a birthing facility to be located within one hour’s drive of the town in 2003.

"In those 17 years, think of all those Wanaka families who have had to go through incredibly complex organisational procedures to actually get to where they need to have their baby. All of those families have had to bear the cost of travel, and all of those who had babies born before they arrived at the birthing facility.

"Although it is a very complicated decision in terms of detail, there is a really simple decision about what is right and what is wrong, and putting something here [a birthing facility] in Wanaka is actually the right decision."

Ms Cleary Lyons said the SDHB had to take cost and affordability into account but it was not purely a cost exercise.

"Supporting rural birthing is always going to cost more but it is about doing what is right for the community and doing it in a way that is sustainable and cost effective."

Ms Cleary Lyons said the meeting had given her team "an awful lot to think about" in putting together a paper and recommendation to the board.

A decision was expected in November.

kerrie.waterworth@odt.co.nz

Comments

It seems political or naive. These on-the-road births were not happening a couple of years ago and the distance and time to Alexandra is no different than most living in big cities or on the outskirts of cities. It is a known risk at Wanaka - there seems little emphasis on soon to be parents to get a move along as early as, or even stay closer, as used to happen.

 

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