Have your say on small town maternity units closure plans

Te Awamutu and Morrinsville residents will today get the opportunity to tell Waikato District Health Board staff what they think of a proposal to close maternity centres in each town.

Two consultation meetings will be held today, in Te Awamutu at the Information Centre in Gorst St at 11am; and then at 1.30pm at the Morrinsville Events Centre in Ron Ladd Pl.

The Times understands a group of Te Awamutu midwives have devised a counter-proposal for a purpose-built, privately-owned and publicly-funded birthing unit in that town, which would replace the ageing Matariki centre.

The board predicts cost savings of about $1.3 million if Morrinsville's Rhoda Read maternity unit and the Matariki unit in Te Awamutu are closed and "consolidated" to Hamilton.

The facilities are underused and the board says most women are choosing to give birth in Hamilton.

Critics predict women who live further afield from Hamilton than the two towns could face a dangerous race to get to the city.

Earlier this year the health board did a feasibility study looking into whether it was a good idea to maintain the maternity services in each town.

That report is damning of the cost of keeping the units a going concern. The annual cost of operating both facilities is $1,281,459 ($665,802 for Rhoda Read and $615,657 for Matariki).

That is $856,468 more than the health board pays for the same number of births in Hamilton.

The report also decreed the two buildings are no longer fit for purpose.

Planning and funding general manager Brett Paradine said it would cost at least $900,000 for "minimum enhancements" to address the issues identified.

Waikato Times