Health board slated for no-show at maternity meeting

STEVE EDWARDS
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2014

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Waikato District Health Board members were criticised for a no-show at a public meeting in Te Aroha on the future of maternity services in Morrinsville.

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson told Tuesday night's meeting he was "terribly disappointed" no elected members of the DHB were present because "they will make the decision".

He described DHB representatives at the meeting, led by DHB general manager planning and funding Brett Paradine, as "functionaries".

The DHB commissioned a feasibility study on the birthing unit at Rhoda Read Hospital, which recommended the facility close and women from the area have their babies in Hamilton.

DHB statistics showed the number of birth and post-natal stays in Rhoda Read has declined. The facility reportedly costs more than $660,000 a year to run.

However, many at the meeting felt the birthing unit at Rhoda Read was an "essential service" for the district.

A number of speakers suggested the DHB had not sufficiently upgraded the facility, which had led to mothers going to Hamilton for "resort birthing".

"People would go (to Rhoda Read) if money was spent on it," said Matamata-Piako District councillor Nicki Robb.

Mr Paradine said it was "coincidental" that River Ridge East Birth Centre in Hamilton was expanding while Rhoda Read was under review. He said the DHB would consider a public/private funding arrangement to run a birthing unit in Morrinsville, similar to the situation at Pohlen Hospital in Matamata.

Copies of a petition opposing closure of the Rhoda Read unit are in various businesses in Te Aroha and Morrinsville, and at health centres and pharmacies in Paeroa and Ngatea, including Pukeko Kids. A Facebook page has also been set up.

The DHB is holding a public meeting next Tuesday at 7.15pm in Morrinsville's Events Centre.

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- Waikato Times

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