Tuatapere Maternity Unit permanently closes

Jo Sanford.

Jo Sanford.

The under-utilised Tuatapere Maternity Unit has closed its doors permanently after nearly 60 years service to the community.

Waiau Health Trust chair Jo Sanford said its board members and its owner, the Tuatapere Community Medical Services Trust, made the "extremely difficult" decision to permanently close the Tuatapere Maternity Unit.

Having opened in 1958, the unit's doors were shut for the last time on Tuesday after a short closure while its future was decided.

Several factors resulted in the decision to close for good, Sanford said.

These included extremely low patient numbers, an inability to replace the departed maternity manager, safety concerns around 24/7 on call midwifery care and overall safety concerns which the trust directors and trustees would have been liable for.

Any prospective mothers would be contacted, with their options for birthing being Southland Hospital, Winton Maternity and Lumsden.

The number of births at the Tuatapere unit had plummeted from 23 in 2012 to eight in 2015.

"The fact is we are very low on [birth] numbers and we have been for quite some time," Sanford said when it was closed temporarily late last month 

"It's a mother's choice about where they are birthing and a lot are choosing to birth in the main centres now."

The Tuatapere unit did not offer epidurals or caesareans, while a doctor was not present at the unit.

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"Whether they see that as a risk, we don't know." 

The unit has been serving the Tuatapere community for nearly six decades apart from a short closure of about nine months in the late 80s or early 90s, Sanford said.

It was under threat of closure four years ago before the Tuatapere community rallied to save it.

The SDHB funded the unit with $149,815 a year, a SDHB spokeswoman said last month.

The Waiau Health Trust and SDHB would now work together to deliver an appropriate post natal service for mothers in the area.


The SDHB is in the process of reviewing its rural maternity services in Southland and Otago, with a report with recommendations going to the SDHB commissioners by the end of this year. 

Babies born at Tuatapere:
2011: 20
2012: 23
2013: 18
2014: 14
2015: 8

 - The Southland Times


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