National says it will extend maternity services in central Otago, if elected

The issue of birth has been a hot topic in Southland over the last twelve months amid concerns about how far expectant mothers should travel to deliver their babies.

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The party has already pledged to do something about the downgraded Lumsden maternity centre. Source: 1 NEWS

National has already promised to reinstate Lumsden's maternity centre if it's elected and today it has announced it will extend services in central Otago too - offering to pay for half of a maternity centre in Wanaka.

“That’s why we did Lumsden, was such a clear case of one being shut down when there was strong demand, with mums giving birth on sides of the road – there are the same sort of stories here in Wanaka,” Simon Bridges says. 

Local, Kristi James is one of those mothers, giving birth on her midwife's office floor earlier this year.

She says she supports the proposal but that it needs to go a lot further.

“The primary birthing unit doesn’t go far enough - again it’s just a chicken and egg scenario. It is part of what we need in order to fix the system but more importantly it is the pay for the midwives, in order to have them live and work here,” she says.

“Bricks and mortar is a good start but most important is the workforce, we have midwives in New Zealand, we just need to reconfigure how they’re paid and pay them more,” says midwife, Morgan Weathington.

And the Government says National's promises can't be trusted.

“Because they closed eleven birthing units in their time, they didn't increase midwives' pay in nine years as much as we have in two," says Minister for Women and Associate Minister of Health, Julie Anne Genter.

Mother, Iona Bentley agrees.

“I can see it is electioneering - it’s them picking the topic and going 'yeah sweet we can give you a birthing unit', that's an easy thing to fix but the problem is not just set with that birthing unit it’s the national crisis in midwifery,” she says.