10 Aug 2018

Lumsden Birthing Centre closure prompts community anger

8:31 pm on 10 August 2018

The Lumsden Rural Women's network is calling for the decision to shut its local birthing centre to be reversed.

Pregnant women at clinic.

Photo: 123rf

The Southern District Health Board today announced the unit would become a maternal and child hub, where babies are only delivered in an emergency.

The DHB today released a plan that also included four other hubs to be established in Wanaka, Te Anau, Tuatapere and Ranfurly; funding support for midwives working in remote locations; and investment in technology to support care.

Earlier this year, a protest march was held on Lumsden's main street and a 4000-signature petition was presented in opposition to the proposed closure.

A speaker receives a standing ovation.

A public event about the closure in March. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The closure of Lumsden's maternity centre hits close to home for Carrie Adams.

Four generations of her family have given birth at the centre dating back to the early 1900s - it's where Ms Adams gave birth to her children.

She is also a director of the charity running the centre - the Northern Southland Health Company.

"This is really taking the chair out from under primary rural healthcare services," Ms Adams said.

More than 100 mothers were supported through birth or got post-natal care at the centre last year, she said.

"This is about providing a safe service for our community.

"If you remove the ability to do this you are putting a huge amount of risk on these women who have to travel very long distances to get to another unit."

However, Ms Adams said she had not lost hope the decision would be reversed.

The closure has been met with outrage from community members, including Lumsden Rural Women chairperson Cheryl Clearwater.

"Keep the damn thing open, don't close it!

"The ones who have got babies ... in government, I would like to see you travel a full hour, in labour pain, getting to a hospital to have a baby.

"Would you have closed Lumsden maternity home?"

Clutha-Southland MP, National's Hamish Walker, said downgrading the centre to a non-birthing unit put mothers and their children at risk.

"This is unacceptable, and this is just wrong."

Mr Walker said the growing population in the area meant things would become more dire in the future.

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