The prospect of maternity wards in Morrinsville and Te Awamutu closing down has midwives fearful mums in labour could be left giving birth on the side of lonely country roads.
Both the Matariki Birthing Unit in Te Awamutu and the Rhoda Read Birthing Unit in Morrinsville could be centralised to Hamilton following a review initiated by the Waikato District Health Board - meaning expectant mothers living further afield could face a daunting extra 30-minute trek to Hamilton to have their babies delivered.
The health board estimates cost savings of $1.29 million if the two facilities are closed.
Morrinsville midwife Selina Berry, a member of the Aroha Midwifery Care collective, had a clear prediction of what would happen if that community lost the Studholme Street facility.
"There's going to be a lot of babies born on the side of the road.
"They are saying ‘Morrinsville is on the way to Hamilton, they might as well keep going to Hamilton' - well, a lot of those mums simply won't be able to make it.
"And a lot of the mums who are planning to have their baby at Waikato Hospital need somewhere available to go that is on the route, as a back up in case the baby decides to be born quickly. If the DHB closes down Rhoda Read, they are not going to be able to even have that option available."
A public meeting had already been held to discuss the issue in Morrinsville, and another was planned for Te Aroha.
If the Morrinsville and Te Awamutu units were closed, then birthing facilities at Waikato Hospital, which frequently appeared to be close to capacity, would need to be expanded fast, she said.
The spectre of the units being closed down was revealed following an Official Information Act request to the health board by Hamilton-based Labour list MP Sue Moroney.
Ms Moroney told the Times the review was likely to cost around $50,000 - money better spent upgrading the units.
She also hoped the health board would enlist local representation from both the Morrinsville and Te Awamutu communities on any review panel.
However the health board yesterday revealed Dr Chris Hendry from the Christchurch-based New Zealand Institute of Community Health Care had been appointed to undertake a feasibility study into closing the units.
Ms Moroney said "local voices" should have a hand in deciding the fate of their own facilities.
"An understanding of what is available in Te Awamutu and Morrinsville is critical. That needs to be part of the review."
Planning and funding general manager Brett Paradine had said "engagement with the relevant key people in the Morrinsville and Te Awamutu communities will be an integral part of the first stage of the feasibility study.
"This stage will include exploring why many women choose to birth in Hamilton, rather than in Morrinsville and Te Awamutu."
- Waikato Times
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