Photographers in focus as DHB tightens rules

FIRST PHOTOS: Beverley Ashburner wants to make sure clients can still choose to have her capture them giving birth in hospital.
FIRST PHOTOS: Beverley Ashburner wants to make sure clients can still choose to have her capture them giving birth in hospital.

Photographers capturing special moments in hospitals are worried they are being shut out by the Waikato District Health Board, but its representatives say they just need to follow processes to protect patients.

Cameras capture all kinds of memories around the hospital, including births and stillborn babies.

Paid or not, the DHB deems photographers business visitors and requires them to register via email and wear a visitor badge.

While many photographers understood the need for the process, they were worried about the services it would affect.

Beverley Ashburner of Baby Shots Photography said parents would lose a "chunk of memories" if birth photography was not allowed.

"We're there to support the parents as well. We become very close. We don't just turn up on the day and say 'Oh hi, my name's Bev'," she said.

"[During the birth] we kind of take a fly-on-the-wall approach. We try and make people forget we're there."

Photographers also carefully considered the privacy of the medical staff involved.

Ashburner supported the idea of working with the DHB to develop guidelines for birth photographers, as did other photographers contacted by the Waikato Times.

Professional Birth Photographers of New Zealand has been working on a code of conduct over the past few months and wants to review it with the DHB.

Photographer Kim Howells, a member of the national group, was drafting a letter asking the DHB how they could work together as birth photography grew in popularity.

"We're interested in doing things the right way," she said.

She respected the need for patient safety, but wanted to ensure beneficial programmes continued - like Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, which offers free "remembrance photography" to families which have lost a baby.

It could take a couple of hours and medical photographers on site were unlikely to offer the same kind of service, she said.

"It's really important. It's one of the only tangible memories," Howells said.

The DHB said visitor policies hadn't changed since the current policy came into force in October 2011.

"People who are in hospital are here because they are sick and in need of a haven where they can be cared for. Several years ago we were finding that visitors were coming at all hours of the day and night and that vendors were visiting the wards selling their wares," DHB spokesperson Mary Anne Gill said.

Business visitors had to register via email, sign in on arrival and collect a visitor sticker for this reason, and so the DHB knew who was on the premises.

Some of those who had complained about their services not being allowed had not followed the process, she said.

For example, Jennifer Christiansen of Preggy Pukus, which makes casts of stillborn babies' hands and feet for parents, had never applied to be a business visitor and did not sign in, Gill said.

For stillborn babies, staff medical photographers were on site and photographing them was part of their duties, she said.

Christiansen felt she had been banned from the hospital grounds. Her castings business was free to families who had lost their babies.

Gill said that although Christiansen said she provided a free service at the personal request of families, the same rules applied.

"There is still a protocol that should be followed because she does provide a business service to other families."

Photographer Karen Flett said she agreed with the hospital's visitor policy, now that she knew about it.

Her work spans birth photography, loss photography and work with terminally ill children.

"I can understand where they're [the DHB] coming from. But giving us an opportunity to work with them would be great," she said.

"We're hopeful that as professional photographers we can reach a resolution with the DHB and come up with a code of conduct that works for us all."

To register as a business visitor at the hospital, email 

Waikato Times