An Auckland midwife says delays caused by traffic congestion could severely impact the care pregnant women receive at the maternity unit based on the same site as a Covid-19 testing station.
Over the past few days traffic has bottle-necked in the Botany area as people rush to be tested as cold and flu season arrives and fresh numbers of Covid-19 are being detected in the country.
Numbers of cases in New Zealand have reached 11 - all attributed to overseas arrivals.
Despite there being no community transmission, community-based testing centres (CBACs) have been overrun by people wanting to be tested.
The Botany Downs Maternity Unit is based on the same site as the Covid-19 testing station - adjacent to a busy main road with two other roads feeding onto it.
The Auckland Regional School Dental Service is also based on the site.
Margie Ireland is a lead maternity carer who has worked at the unit for 13 years and says it’s just a matter of time before a disaster happens.
“Something’s going to happen. If you have a baby trying to come out in the car because they are stuck in traffic, imagine the poor people trying to deal with that situation,” she told 1 NEWS.
She said her colleagues and clients have all expressed concern over the site.
All of us have said "what on earth is going to happen if a pregnant woman goes into labour and has to deal with that amount of traffic?"
“There’s no disputing that it’s causing problems, it can’t take an hour to get from Howick to get into Botany Birthing Unit.
“None of us can understand it,” Ms Ireland says.
MP for Pakuranga, National's Simeon Brown told 1 NEWS he is working with the party's candidate for Botany, Christopher Luxon, to try and alleviate the situation.
“I’ve had people emailing me saying ‘I can’t get to work,’ ” says Mr Brown.
“I’ve heard from a range of people who are trying to get tested, frustrated with delays, people trying to drop their kids off at school and can’t get their kids there in time.”
Mr Brown says he has written a letter to the Minister of Health calling for the testing centre to be moved from Botany Road due to the problems he says it’s causing in the community.
Police were called to direct traffic in the area on Monday after queues of traffic backed up adjacent roads.
Since then Auckland Transport (AT) have put signs and cones in the area to limit those travelling to the testing site to one lane.
A spokesperson for AT says there is a limit to how much it can control the situation.
“We are stuck with the testing stations we have,” he says.
“It really is up to the Health Board to try and control the situation.”
Police are also limited to how much they can assist.
“Congestion around Covid testing sites is the responsibility of the District Health Board, who work with Auckland Transport so Implement a traffic management plan,” a police spokesperson told 1 NEWS.
In a statement released tonight, a spokesperson for the Northern Region DHBs (Northland, Waitematā, Auckland and Counties Manukau) said there are no plans to move the testing site.
“At the Spectrum House CBAC on Botany Road, new traffic management plans were put in place yesterday and these are regularly reviewed and updated. In response to the demand for community testing we are also reviewing the number and location of CBACs across the city,” the statement said.
“Our message to the public is that we have capacity to test everyone who meets the national criteria for Covid-19 testing but they should plan for longer than usual wait times at our CBACs. Our CBAC teams are working tirelessly to meet the current demand and are testing people as quickly as possible.
“There is currently no community spread in Auckland and the only members of the general public who need to be tested are those who have symptoms of Covid-19 and meet the Ministry of Health’s high index of suspicion (HIT) criteria.”
The DHB says the number of tests received last week across Northland and Auckland was similar to the volumes received during lockdown.
Last week, 15-21 June, 17,247 tests were received for processing at labs across the Northern Region (Northland and metropolitan Auckland).
This compares with 17,921 tests received for the week 4-10 May, which remains the Northern Region’s biggest week to date.
June 23 was the Northern Region’s busiest day to date with 4,680 tests received.