Ardern to 'have another look' at Southland maternity services after roadside Lumsden birth

The Prime Minister will "have another look" at maternity services after a woman gave birth in an ambulance on the side of a road near Lumsden in Southland. 

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The Southland town's maternity centre was downgraded to a “hub” because of low numbers. Source: 1 NEWS

"My understanding is that the mother, who I am glad is safe and well, was actually not on her way to Lumsden, that it wasn't her intent to have her baby in Lumsden," Jacinda Ardern said today. 

"I'm happy to have another look at the make up of services, but what led to this decision in the first place is women making choices to go elsewhere."

Lumsden's maternity centre was recently downgraded to a "hub", which provides pre and post-natal care but are not considered places to give birth except in an emergency.

On Saturday night, fears of expectant mothers throughout the region became a reality after a woman delivered a baby in an ambulance on the side of the road because she could not get to Invercargill in time.

Ms Ardern said part of the reason why some of the service provision changed was "because of the low numbers birthing in Lumsden" and full services were not able to be accessed.

"This is before any changes were made, for instance, epidurals weren't available. I do think we have to be mindful of making sure that we try and provide in decent proximity, full services.

"In this particular case, this won't be the first time of course that we've had a woman giving birth in circumstances that aren't what she planned. I'm just pleased she's safe."

MP for Clutha-Southland Hamish Walker wrote to the Prime Minister today, saying it was clear the hub model was not "fit for purpose as it removes birthing services and only provides pre and post-natal care in Lumsden and Te Anau".

"The dignity of pregnant women has been stripped under the hub model. Some will be forced to take major delays in getting maternity care, with some mothers having to travel up to 130km to give birth. It is likely more mothers will be forced to deliver their babies while travelling to hospital."

Southern DHB chief executive Chris Fleming told 1 NEWS, "an ambulance is entirely an appropriate place in the event there had been a clinical decision making, like in this instance where they wanted to move the women closer to a secondary facility". 

"All of the necessary safety equipment was in place – and drugs – with the exception of a oxygen supply. However, I’m aware that the ambulance was carrying oxygen within their own supplies."