Some Wanaka women opting for Dunedin birth

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ALEXIA.JOHNSTON

@alliedpress.co.nz

Wanaka’s midwifery sector is still stretched, prompting a growing number of expectant mothers to base themselves in Dunedin ahead of their new arrival.

Kristi James, of Hawea Flat, understood she was one of about 20 women due to give birth in June, under the guidance of the Wanaka midwives.

For some of those women, staying in Wanaka until they went into labour was a risk they did not want to take, she said.

“They want to go down [to Dunedin] a week before they are due and spend money out of their own pocket for [accommodation].”

That process was “less than ideal” for most couples, particularly if they already had children to care for.

Ms James, a mother of one, co-ordinated a Save Our Wanaka Midwives petition about a year ago to help boost support for midwives in the area.

More than 3000 people signed the petition, which has since closed.

The petition requested the Government provide the funding model for rural community midwives to be updated and for the Southern District Health Board’s (SDHB) proposed maternity hub in Wanaka be upgraded to a primary birthing unit.

Almost a year on, that hub has still not eventuated.

However, the SDHB pays the rent for the space that already exists.

“It’s by no means a hub – it’s just an office with a toilet in it,” Ms James said.

“It’s not an ideal situation by any means. If I was a first-time mum, that would be pretty scary.” – mum and midwife campaigner Kristi James

However, SDHB strategy primary and community executive director Lisa Gestro said it was moving ahead with the establishment of a maternal and child hub, starting with the subsidised clinic space and emergency equipment at Wanaka Medical Centre.

She said longer term – likely within the next 18 months – the SDHB would start evaluating options for the ideal location for a primary and maternity birthing unit in the Central Otago/Lakes/Wanaka area.

A second full-time Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) midwife also started in November, along with a relief midwifery service to provide weekend back-up cover, Ms Gestro said.

“This means there are two LMC midwives available at all times to support new and expectant mothers in the Wanaka area.”

That result was pleasing for everyone involved, but it was still “not quite enough”, Ms James said.

Guidelines state that if an area has more than 100 births in a year and the nearest primary birthing facility was an hour or more away, then it should have its own primary birthing facility.

Alexandra was more than an hour away for most Wanaka people, Ms James told The Newswhen the petition was first launched.

Information compiled by Save Our Wanaka Midwives suggested about 200 births were predicted for the year ahead.

“That’s 100 [expectant mothers for] each [midwife], which is a little bit scary.”

Her feelings about the scenario were strong, even before she knew she was expecting again.

“There’s 20 women due in June.

“This is my second baby so I know what to expect and I trust my midwife.”

However, Ms James said she was among the expectant mothers who would be driving to Dunedin for the birth because she was required to have a Caesarean section.

“It’s not an ideal situation by any means. If I was a first-time mum, that would be pretty scary.”

Ms Gestro said as part of the plan to improve midwifery services in Wanaka, a monthly telehealth clinic was launched in October.

The initiative connects midwives and expectant mothers in need of additional support with an obstetrician at Dunedin Hospital.

“This well-received service means some women can be seen locally and avoid travel to Dunedin for specialist appointments and advice.”