Petition in support of midwives elicits strong response

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A petition to boost help for midwives in Wanaka has gained more than 3000 signatures since it was launched on March 20.
Organisers say the petition is gathering momentum, and plans are to keep it running for several more weeks.

Save Our Wanaka Midwives co-ordinator Kristi James, of Hawea Flat, said the petition asked the Government for the funding model for rural community midwives to be updated and for the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) proposed maternity hub in Wanaka to be upgraded to a primary birthing unit.

“The SDHB is proposing a maternal hub which basically is a building that women could use for pre and postnatal, but it doesn’t include a birthing unit,” Ms James said.

The SDHB could be in breach of its agreement with the Ministry of Health by not having a primary birthing unit, Ms James said.

“If you have over 100 births [in a district within a year] and you are one hour away from a primary birthing facility then you are entitled to have your own primary birthing facility.”

Alexandra was more than an hour away for most Wanaka people, Ms James said.

Information compiled by Save Our Wanaka Midwives suggested 180-200 births were predicted for the year ahead, and the SDHB had predicted 120 births, Ms James said.

“So we should first of all have a primary birthing unit here.”

“What’s really important for people to understand is not only we need the primary birthing unit, but the funding model needs a complete overhaul.

“The Ministry of Health and the New Zealand College of Midwives about a year ago came up with a co-design.”

Both sides agreed on a funding plan, but then “it went to the bottom of the pile”, Ms James said.

“So it’s literally there, the solution to the problem is there, the funding model has been completely overhauled and revised, and somebody just needs to push go.”

Suzanne MacIntosh, of Queensberry, was a midwife who worked across Central Otago.

“There’s been a lot of consultation with no definitive things agreed,” she said.

“It would appear that money is being moved around the district, taken from some places to put somewhere else,” Mrs MacIntosh said.

Mrs MacIntosh highlighted the situation in Lumsden, where Southland mothers and midwives objected to the proposed withdrawal of birthing services at Lumsden Maternity Centre.

“The resources are thin on the ground. The number of midwives in the region, we know, are not enough for all the women across the region,” she said.

example the situation when colleagues had to attend births in Dunedin they would be unavailable for other mothers.

“She’s [the midwife] out of the region for anything between six and 24, or sometimes 48 hours, depending on how long the labour goes, and rest time and travel time,” Mrs MacIntosh said.

This took a toll both personally with travel time, time away from family and financially, with costs including petrol, Mrs MacIntosh said.

The News contacted the SDHB which at the time of publication had not responded, but a previous comment in the Otago Daily Times said figures and locations would be looked at again before anything was confirmed.