The News reporter Aspen Bruce talks to a woman very relieved there is now a birthing unit in Wanaka.

“People know how stretched healthcare is — I felt it.”
    A woman who wants to remain anonymous says her birthing experience did not go to plan.
    Her labour began on a Friday at home in Wanaka, with plans to be transferred to Queenstown birthing unit.
    However, when it was time to go, the Queenstown birthing unit was in use.
    Instead she was transferred to Alexandra.
    “We drove down to Charlotte Jean. It was a really nice atmosphere.’’
    Mid-morning, labour stopped progressing and her midwife tried a few different things. The midwife said they needed to think about the next step from there.
    One option was travelling to Dunedin, but the decision was made to be transferred back to Queenstown instead.
    However, when they arrived in Queenstown, for further support she needed to be transferred to Invercargill.
    Fatigued and tired, her midwife consulted with the couple and referred them on to another midwife for the birth.
    A helicopter was arranged to fly the woman down, while her partner drove.
    After he left, her waters broke, prompting quick action.
    About two thirds of the way towards Southland, the weather started to pack in and the decision was made to land the helicopter in a nearby paddock.
    “Labour was progressing pretty quickly. Then when we could go, we didn’t have enough fuel and had to go to Gore to get fuel,” she said.
    Talk swirled about heading to Dunedin hospital instead, but with her partner already on his way, they continued on to Invercargill.
    “It was quite a long two hours, with little pain relief,” she said.
    Once in hospital, she described the process as quite clinical and medicalised.
    “They didn’t listen to anything I wanted and it was not what I was hoping for.”
    Her child was born that night and they stayed at the hospital, before driving to Charlotte Jean primary care facility.
    “We spent two nights there, I can’t believe the level of care we got there. It was incredible having all the support there around you. ‘‘It’s such a good start to your parenting life and recovery gets off to a better start.’’ She said being at the birthing care unit was the best thing and would “recommend it to anyone who had the means to do it”. She acknowledged throughout her experience the individuals within the health systems were helpful and doing the best they could; they just did not have the time. “People know how stretched the healthcare is
— Ifelt it,” she said. She believes the new birthing unit in Wanaka may provide the opportunity for a different birthing experience for expectant families. “I was hoping to give birth at a primary care facility. If there was a birthing unit in Wanaka, it would have been a very different experience. I could have stayed at home for longer and my midwife, who was Wanaka-based, could have gone home to sleep.” She reflected there are few places in the developed world where it requires more than three hours’ travel to reach a hospital where someone could safely have intervention. “It’s pretty daunting and you do not think or know about it, until you have had to give birth in that situation,” she said. On June 27 it was announced an eightbedroom property on Monteith Rd, Albert Town had been purchased as a new primary care facility. Wanaka Maternal and Child Hub coordinator Morgan Weathington said the new primary care facility would resource people well within the Upper Clutha area. ‘‘Having a primary unit closer to home means a woman can be supported by extended family while staying in the unit,’’ Ms Weathington said. The primary care centre provides mothers the opportunity to be transferred back postbirth to Wanaka, as they are currently able to at the other primary units such as Central Otago Maternity Unit (previously Charlotte Jean) or Queenstown Lakes primary unit.
    Maternity care and needs range from primary to secondary and tertiary services.
    The new unit will have a helipad on site, making transfers and retrievals easier.
    Currently primary care within Central Otago is only offered in Queenstown, Alexandra and at home births, for well pregnant people and babies giving term births (categorised from 37 weeks onwards).
    Secondary and tertiary services offer care for births before 37 weeks, complicated pregnancies/births, more extensive anaesthetics such as epidurals and Caesarean sections.
    Te Whatu Ora Southern acting service manager primary maternity Hannah Gentile said the new facility will provide a valuable resource to extend birth choices in the rural environment.
    “Approximately 180-200 women in Wanaka receive care through local lead maternity carers. Te Whatu Ora Southern expects around half of these pregnant people will now choose to birth at the new Wanaka Primary Birthing Unit, dramatically cutting down their travel time to a birthing facility and allowing for midwifery model of care which meets the needs of the community, on their own doorstep,” Ms Gentile said.
    Prior to opening a few minor building alterations will be undertaken while the midwifery team work towards finalising a midwifery model of care.
    This model seeks to develop policies and procedures necessary to guarantee a safe and empowering childbearing journey.
    This model will be finalised before the Wanaka primary opens in early 2023.
    The new facility will complement the existing Central Otago Maternity Unit in Alexandra and the Queenstown Maternity Unit at Lakes District Hospital.