10 Jun 2019

Decision to not front Lumsden meeting 'embarrassing', MP says

5:50 pm on 10 June 2019

The Ministry of Health and Southern District Health Board decision not to meet with Southland midwives today has been described as a slap in the face.

Hamish Walker, National candidate for Clutha/Southland speaks to residents in Winton.

Local MP Hamish Walker said it was a 'slap in the face'. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The meeting was called to help midwives practice safely in the area after the former Lumsden Maternity Centre was downgraded.

It was cancelled after both organisations decided not to front up to midwives this afternoon.

National's Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said it was embarrassing that neither were prepared to meet with midwives for the good of the rural communities.

"Its trust directors were just doing the right thing, trying to organise a meeting with the DHB, with the Ministry of Health to give the midwives that are left some safety operating environment," Mr Walker said.

"The fact they didn't turn up is an absolute slap in the face. The Health Minister needs to instruct his officials to actually meet with the local trust to ensure we give some safety to the midwives operating."

In an email, senior Southland District Health Board official Lisa Gestro said a group meeting would "become confrontational" and make it "difficult to explore solutions".

"We don't think this approach is helpful and for now we plan to concentrate on the establishment of the hub and on the sustainability of midwifery services for the district," she said.

One mother gave birth in an ambulance on the way to Lumsden less than a fortnight ago, and another woman gave birth at the hub last week.

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