Pregnant women in Te Awamutu and Morrinsville could still have a facility in which they can give birth to their children next year.
Three proposals have been received by the Waikato District Health Board to provide maternity services in the two towns, including full labour and birthing facilities, as well as postnatal services.
The health board prompted outrage in the two communities last year, when it proposed to close down the Matariki and Rhoda Read maternity units in Te Awamutu and Morrinsville respectively.
The board reckoned it could save around $1.29 million if the facilities in each town were closed, which were allegedly being shunned by women. However, expectant mothers living in the rural communities further south and west of Hamilton feared they could face a potentially life-threatening 30 minute-plus trek to the city to have their babies delivered if they lost access to the maternity units.
Although the public outcry was strong, the board nonetheless moved to close down the two units - with the proviso that an expressions-of-interest process be set in motion, to see if anyone else was willing to provide the services the health board was backing out of.
As it turned out, three groups - two in Morrinsville, one in Te Awamutu - came through with proposals to provide such services by the council's June 5 deadline.
At its meeting this week, the board moved to proceed to the next stage of verifying the feasibility of the three proposals, known as a "request for funding" (RFP) process.
That decision was passed by the board members without comment.
The three groups now have until August 15 to supply the board with the RFP documents.
The board will decide on September 24 whether or not it wants to go along with each group's proposals - with an aim for the new organisation or organisations to take over the running of maternity services in the towns by February 1 next year.
If the organisations are deemed to be not up to the task of providing maternity services, the board will revert to its original plan of closing the Matiriki and Rhoda Read centres by that date.
- Waikato Times