SDHB challenged on abortion plan
WILMA MCCORKINDALE IN DUNEDIN
Southland anti-abortion lobbyists say their district health board's reasons for introducing an abortion service to Southland are false.
Southlanders for Life chairman Norman McLean yesterday repudiated a Southern District Health Board contention that it was obliged under national standards to specifically provide the service in Southland.
Mr McLean said the board was already meeting its obligation, which was to provide an abortion service; where that service was based did not matter. (The service is based in Dunedin).
Southlanders for Life had sought clarification on the issue from Deputy Prime Minister Bill English.
Board chairman Joe Butterfield had said "... the decision to provide the service in Invercargill brings the DHB into line with national standards ...".
But there were no standards that demanded a service be based in Invercargill, Mr McLean said.
Mr English confirmed the absence of mandatory national standards, legal obligation, or Government directive for the board to provide an abortion service in any particular geographic area, Mr McLean said.
The Southern DHB is obliged to provide an abortion service and does provide an abortion service at its Dunedin site. "This is therefore a matter of discretion for the board. After all, there are six other health boards that refer patients outside their area for abortion services."
Mr Butterfield is out of New Zealand and could not be reached for comment.
Mr McLean yesterday led a 30-strong deputation to the board's monthly meeting in Dunedin to emphasise opposition to a Southland abortion service and to deliver a petition against it.
Mr McLean told board members Mr English had also confirmed that the board should be consulting the district before introducing the proposed service.
"Your own governance manual states you are required to engage with the community in planning for the provision of services and for significant change," Mr McLean told the board.
Acting board chairman Paul Menzies said later the group's points would be considered.
However, the board questioned whether it was appropriate to send women a day's journey away to have the procedure done, he said.
Mr Menzies denied the service would be a new service or an expansion of the service that would require consultation.
"It is a proposal to provide it in a different place. We're not expanding it because we're already doing these numbers."
Mr McLean told board members staff in the Southland obstetric department had "unanimously" refused to be part of the service, apart from dealing with complications.
A number of senior Southland medical staff had informed Southlanders For Life they would reconsider their ongoing employment with the board should the service be implemented, he said.
That included Kew Hospital paediatrician Dr Vili Sotutu.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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