Waikato District Health Board today approved a two and a half month consultation period about the future of maternity services in Morrinsville/Te Aroha and Te Awamutu.
The New Zealand Institute of Community Health Care carried out the study for Waikato DHB earlier this year looking at the future of primary birthing facilities in the communities.
The study came about after a steady increase in the number of women choosing to have their babies in Hamilton rather than in their own community.
In the year from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013, 82 per cent of birthing women from Morrinsville/Te Aroha, and 86 per cent of birthing women in Te Awamutu, preferred to birth in Hamilton, rather than in their local birthing units.
Just 70 women birthed at Rhoda Read for the same period – on average one every 5.37 days – and 68 at Matariki – one every 5.21 days. Both Rhoda Read and Matariki are staffed 365 days a year, 24/7.
“While there seem to be plenty of ‘anecdotal’ reasons for this, one of the purposes of the feasibility study was to find out from the women themselves, and their midwives, why this is so,” said Waikato DHB Planning and Funding general manager Brett Paradine.
The review team, headed by Dr Chris Hendry, a midwife with more than 30 years’ experience, undertook a detailed review of factors impacting on the reduced use of these facilities by local women, and recommended that birthing and labour services for Morrinsville/Te Aroha and Te Awamutu women, be consolidated in Hamilton.
Dr Hendry is a champion for rural services and primary birthing, having managed a Canterbury primary birthing unit in the past.
When she and the review team carried out the study, they met with staff and the midwives who work in or with Matariki and Rhoda Read.
“Women in the localities who had their babies in Hamilton also filled in questionnaires to determine the reasons why women chose not to birth in their local unit,” said Mr Paradine.
“Responses from those women indicated that they themselves had chosen to birth in Hamilton, but felt that there needed to be a maternity unit in the town for those who wanted to birth locally,” said Dr Hendry.
“But the facts are that only 14-19 per cent of eligible women in the 2012-2013 year did that. Which says to me that these towns do not have the local maternity services that the majority of birthing women want or need, and that’s what we need to ask them – that’s where the improvements will come from.
“The facilities are not servicing the towns well and if only such a small percentage are using these considerable resources, that’s not a fair distribution of maternity resources for the rest of the community.”
Waikato DHB today approved a consultation plan with the affected communities ending 21 February 2014 to get feedback on what primary maternity services would be needed in the areas if all women were to have their babies in Hamilton.
“These ideas could include things like local access to pregnancy and parenting education or lactation support services which at present, are lacking in some areas,” said Mr Paradine.
“The board is keen to hear other suggestions from the community, which might include improvements to existing community-based services or options like grouping some providers together into a family/resource centre – among other ideas.”
Special community health forum meetings will be held on Tuesday 17 December, 11am in Te Awamutu at the Information Centre in Gorst St, and at 1.30pm in Morrinsville at the Morrinsville Events Centre in Ron Ladd Place.
To read the feasibility study or more information about the review, visit www.waikatodhb.health.nz/birthing
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