12 Sep 2018

'There is insufficient resource and support for community midwives'

2:51 pm on 12 September 2018

Moves to fix the midwife shortage in Wanaka are too little, too late, says the New Zealand College of Midwives.

A file photo shows a midwife with a pregnant woman.

Photo: 123RF

The Southern District Health Board has plans for a larger maternity hub to support the remaining midwife in the township and to encourage others to return to work.

Other moves to try and address the shortage include a $300 per-woman top-up for midwives as part of the DHB's "sustainability package".

But the college of midwives' deputy chief executive Alison Eddy said it while was an improvement, it would do little towards a longer term solution.

"While it's pleasing to see the southern DHB saying they would not leave the remaining midwife in Wanaka unsupported and they're working on a longer term solution, we believe their actions to date are too little, too late.

"The college acknowledges the DHB has provided a short-term solution by funding two midwife locums, but the shortage in the region is indicative of a bigger issue - there is insufficient resource and support for community midwives right across the country, which is why they continue to leave the profession," Ms Eddy said.

Southern DHB spokesperson Lisa Gestro told Nine to Noon today it has been working across the district on establishing a network of hubs, aimed at supporting midwives.

She said the hubs included emergency equipment and tele-health capabilities.

Ms Gestro said remote locations had other challenges, including working around some severe weather and managing resources around an ever-changing need.

Guidelines suggested up to four midwives were needed in Wanaka to manage caseloads, and to ensure each had time off the roster.

Ms Gestro said an on-call arrangement needed to be signed off by Ministry officials and more discussion with them was needed.

Save Our Wanaka Midwives campaigner Kristi James said it was a good sign that attempts were being made to solve the problem, but the money being put into a building would be better spent on staff.

"It is a case of putting the cart before the horse - it's kind of step two or three in a multi-stage process but with the maternal hub, we need staff.

"We don't really know what sort of service it's going to do if we don't have anybody to staff it."

Ms James said pregnant Wanaka women were relocating to Dunedin in the weeks before their due date, to avoid a 3.5-hour drive to hospital.

She said there were currently "quite a few" pregnant women in Wanaka - several were now in their second pregnancy and facing a long and possibly unsafe journey to Dunedin, without a midwife on hand to help.

Former midwife Morgan Weathington said the gap between what midwives were being paid and what they should be paid fairly remained wide.

"The DHB has offered space, equipment and services but it's not enough to cover that very large gap."

Ms Weathington said there were plenty of midwives wanting to return to work, and she hoped the DHB's plan would encourage thinking along those lines, but she expected the matter would "yo-yo" until a better funding model was resolved.

She said other areas of the country faced similar challenges.

Ms Eddy said while progress had been frustratingly slow, the college of midwives was looking forward to meeting with the government and senior ministry officials next week.

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