Hospital soon to perform abortions

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 16/05/2012

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Southland Hospital is expected to be licensed to perform abortions from July.

The Southern District Health Board currently provides the service at Dunedin Hospital, but chief medical officer David Tulloch said abortions would be provided closer to home as part of the expansion of clinical services at Southland Hospital.

The service at Southland Hospital would bring the health board in line with national standards, he said, "ensuring women have adequate access to care in their own district."

A 2011 report of the Abortion Supervisory Committee says 231 Southland women had an abortion in 2010, a number that had been steadily decreasing in the past three years, down from 260 in 2009 and 277 in 2007.

Most were performed at Lyndhurst Hospital in Christchurch. Following the Christchurch earthquake, which damaged the hospital, the service for Southland women was moved to Dunedin Hospital.

Southland had been earmarked as a region of concern in previous committee reports because of a lack of adequate access to abortion services for women in the region. A 2010 Abortion Supervisory Committee report says the committee was encouraged that the amalgamation of the Southland and Otago district health boards that year would likely lead to better access.

Former nurse and Voice for Life member Lynley Morrison, of Winton, said she believed the service was "non-essential" and was taking up surgery space that could go towards more important procedures for an increasingly elderly population, such as hip replacements.

In a letter to the Southland Times this week, she asks if the community wanted that to happen at Southland Hospital "where so many people are on the waiting list for essential and life-changing surgeries such as hip replacements, tonsil and adenoid removal or grommets inserted, or other medical or surgical procedures which at present, we Southlanders have to wait months for?"

Mrs Morrison said she understood the hospital would be licensed for four non-surgical and four surgical abortions performed every Thursday. Mr Tulloch did not confirm that number, but said as part of the planning process, the board was considering what resources were available.

Alison McCulloch of the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand said women in Southland have had to travel a long distance to have an abortion, which can add to the stress and trauma of the procedure.

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