Baby boom has services stretched

AMANDA PARKINSON
Last updated 05:00 21/09/2013

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New mums at Southland Hospital are being put into a neighbouring ward because the maternity ward has become unusually busy.

Southern District Health Board director of midwifery Jenny Humphries said two new mums had been moved to the rehabilitation ward.

"The maternity ward has been particularly busy, with eight babies born on Wednesday and five on Thursday, when generally we would see three to four born each day," she said.

"In addition, we have had a number of patients requiring antenatal care, as well as complex cases requiring longer stays, which has meant the 18 beds in the ward were full for a short period."

Te Anau has also reported an influx of expectant mums, causing rural midwives to question the viability of the recently established independent midwifery contracts.

Midwives Nicky Pealing and Jo Lundman practice in Te Anau and report 47 births compared to 31 in the 2011-12 financial year.

The health board said the increased number of babies born in the area in the past year had prompted the introduction of a hearing screening service for newborns in Te Anau.

Ms Lundman said the baby boom meant there were too many births for one midwife but not enough for two.

She was made redundant from Tuatapere Maternity Hospital when it moved to an independent model a year ago.

Ms Pealing said she would be forced to practice as an independent midwife after December because of restructuring at the Lumsden Maternity Centre.

She returned from three months' leave to discover she had been made redundant with four weeks' notice.

The Northern Southland Medical Trust was forced to move towards a model that outsourced midwifery care because of the Ministry of Health's funding model.

The midwives said the current funding model gave insufficient support to rural hospitals, forcing all rural maternity centres in Southland to move to independent midwifery contracts.

Ms Pealing said the lack of transparency from the trust has caused both staff and community to feel that the "goodwill tanks were empty". "I am dismayed by the lack of clear plans, even ideas on how this transition will be done astounds me," she said.

"I shared with the trust how nervous the nursing staff are, and concerns about women and staff safety with the unit midwife being minimum 45 minutes away."

Under the trust's contract with the Southern District Health Board, the maternity unit must have a midwife within 20 minutes of the facility.

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