Expectant mothers in Fiordland are anxious and looking to birth outside the region following the closure of the Lumsden Maternity Centre, a roadside birth and problems plaguing the new hubs.
Fiordland Families Network chairperson Anna Thomas said, “Some of our local women are worried that they could end up giving birth roadside and others are concerned if Southland Hospital or the other birthing units are full, that they may have to travel to Dunedin to give birth.
“One family has even started making arrangements to temporarily re-locate to another South Island centre, that is better equipped maternity wise, to have their baby," she says in a statement.
These concerns come after a Southland woman gave birth roadside near Lumsden, and another at Lumsden hub because the maternity centre was not open.
“Had the Lumsden Maternity Centre been open, as it should have been, both of these babies would have been welcomed into a warm, fit-for-purpose and fully staffed maternity unit with a second midwife and nurses on-hand. They would then have had the opportunity to have a postnatal stay within their own community,” she says.
“Instead, we can only imagine the heart-wrenching feeling of transporting a newborn from Lumsden in the freezing cold, and missing out on crucial skin to skin time, to a maternity unit another 40 minutes drive away,” says Ms Thomas.
“Our midwifes, who already have to travel large distances in often challenging road conditions, are now faced with having to deliver babies with no guaranteed back-up midwife. It’s very stressful for the midwife and for the mother.”
An expectant mother from Te Anau, Toni Vivier, is due to have her second child in six weeks.
Ms Vivier says she feels unsettled about having to travel an hour and a half to Winton, or two hours to Invercargill to give birth during winter.
“My first baby was born in winter with snow on the ground so I was fortunate that we had the Lumsden Maternity Centre as it was a fast labour,” she says.
“This time, I’m concerned that if I don’t make the distance that my baby will be born in the car and if we do make the distance, that we could be turned away due to the beds being full,” says Ms Vivier.
“As for planning, you can do all the planning you want but labour is so unpredictable,” she says.
Fiordland Families Network member Danica Tauri says the Lumsden closure was poorly planned and had “unfairly increased the burden on hundreds of rural woman.”
“The two recent births were a result of poor management on the part of the Southern DHB, a birth event at or near any hub should be rare and definitely should not be accepted as a weekly occurrence.”
“This is a symptom of poor decision making and highlights the fact that Lumsden provided an essential service and must be reinstated.We know that 15 babies born last year at Lumsden would have been born before arriving at the Winton birthing unit," she concludes.