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Board approves changes to maternity services in South Waikato and King Country

Maternity services run by Waikato District Health Board in Tokoroa, Te Kuiti and Taumarunui will be delivered in a different way, the board confirmed at its monthly meeting today (Wednesday).

The board has reviewed maternity services in South Waikato, Ruapehu and King Country to ensure that women and their whanau in the region can have a healthy birth and as healthy a baby as possible.

The changes include:

  • A primary maternity hub service model to help women navigate access to services like smoking cessation, lactation, parenting education and specialist services like diabetes.
  • The closure of the Te Kuiti Birthing Unit. The majority of women are already choosing to birth at other facilities including the new Te Awamutu primary birthing unit and others in Hamilton.
  • A move to a Lead Maternity Carer model for Te Kuiti and Tokoroa
  • An enhanced facility contract for the two birthing units in Tokoroa and Taumarunui. This will mean there is a contract in place with LMCs to provide 24/7 cover for primary births at these facilities. Taumarunui has had this contract model in place for some time. A new contract is being developed to provide better incentives for LMCs providing this service in rural areas.

Executive Director of Community and Clinical Support, Mark Spittal, explained:

“Maternity is not just about giving birth. We need to provide services in the southern part of the Waikato that are sustainable and give confidence to mothers that they can be cared for and can be supported to care for themselves and their babies in the longer term.

“Each community will have a primary maternity hub as a physical location. The hub will have a coordinator, employed by the DHB, to help women access services to support and improve their health and wellbeing and that of their babies and whanau.

“It will help facilitate access to LMCs; improve collaboration between service providers and provide the technology for more telehealth services to enable women to talk to health professionals remotely rather than having to travel to appointments. The hub would also provide a place of social connection for women in their communities.

“The actual hospital birth and postnatal stay is just 48 hours in the total of 10 months of maternity care that women need. So we want to invest in local antenatal and postnatal care and ensure that all local support services like GPs, district nurses and midwives are well integrated and work collaboratively.”

He said only a small number of women were currently using the Te Kuiti birthing centre.

“Providing a birthing facility for women in Te Kuiti which is used by only a very small number of women each year is just not sustainable. This year there have been only seven births between January to April.”

Mr Spittal said the changes would not be implemented immediately and would be unlikely to occur before 2018.

The transition process would involve co-designing services with key community stakeholders and local service providers to develop enhanced access to services and a well-coordinated antenatal and postnatal service.

The recommendations came following a community consultation process and involved data gathering and information from subject matter experts.

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