15 Apr 2019

Lumsden Maternity Centre downgrade may force expectant mothers to travel further

3:15 pm on 15 April 2019

Mothers may be forced to travel further to give birth after a Southland birthing centre was downgraded.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The Southern District Health Board announced the Lumsden Maternity Centre downgrade last August, triggering community outcry, a protest march, petition and appeals to the government.

The centre has become a maternal and child hub where babies are only delivered in an emergency.

The company that ran the centre said mothers travelled from as far away as Queenstown and Te Anau to use the birthing services.

Northern Southland Health Company director Carrie Adams said population projections suggested the demand for birthing services was going to grow.

"This problem isn't going to go away ... it's going to become a bigger problem as time goes on, not a smaller one," Ms Adams said.

The downgrade would have a huge impact on families, who would have to travel even further for support, she said.

There are concerns midwives might be discouraged from practising in the area if they are forced to travel greater distances to support mothers, Ms Adams said.

"We're not going to see these detrimental effects tomorrow or even next week, it's going to be ... this flow-on effect throughout the years of a degradation in services which results in a poor, you know, postnatal outcome, lower percentages of breastfeeding rates compared to what we've got now, and look frankly, midwives, not seeing this area as a viable area to practice in."

There was only a narrow hope the decision would be reversed at this stage, despite a petition going to the Health Select Committee about a week ago, she said.

But the community should be proud of how hard its fought to keep birthing services in the area, Ms Adams said.

The last birth at the centre was on 22 March.

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