Near-misses highlight midwife pressure
Lisa Johnstone’s water broke in Wanaka at 1.30pm on Tuesday August 2. It took her more than four hours to get to hospital for her emergency caesarean-section.
Johnstone already knew her baby was in a breech position, and had booked in for an elective C-section, but she went into labour 10 days early. Her midwife, Deb Harvey, called Dunedin Hospital and asked for a helicopter transfer.
‘‘They wanted us to take an ambulance,’’ said Johnstone.
Ambulances have important medical equipment, but are a slow option for a transfer. The ambulance arrived from Cromwell, around an hour after Johnstone’s water broke. The plan at this stage was to change ambulance twice en-route. ’’That’s why my midwife was really campaigning to get a helicopter. She could see things were happening quite quickly.’’
Midwives around the country are fighting for recognition of the pressures they are under. After the midwives filed High Court action, the Government backed down and agreed to go into mediation to discuss equal pay and conditions.
Johnstone’s case was one of two recent near-misses involving transfers of expectant mothers in Central Otago. In the other case, a midwife tried to arrange for a mother to make a two-and-a-half hour ambulance transfer from Queenstown to Invercargill, but was told Invercargill couldn’t take her. Instead the ambulance was directed to Dunedin – a four-hour journey.
Eventually St John organised a helicopter to come from Queenstown. Johnstone arrived at Dune- din Hospital about 6pm, by which time she was experiencing nearconstant contractions. If Harvey had driven Johnstone to Dunedin in a car, she would have arrived about 5pm.
‘‘If you break a leg on Cardrona attempting something you can’t do, a chopper will come and take you to Dunedin. But if it’s a mother and baby, the priority isn’t there.’’
Leanne Samuel, executive director of nursing and midwifery at Southern DHB, said she was unable to discuss individual patient’s care.
‘‘Patient safety is our priority. We are aware of the challenge in meeting the maternity needs for this rural region, and are continuing to explore ways of enhancing emergency and transport options.’’
Lisa Johnstone, left, with her 11-day-old daughter, who is yet to be named, and midwife Deb Harvey.