Maternity service shake-up on the way
Health bosses are considering closing Te Kuiti’s birthing unit, saying a shake-up is needed to reverse poor health statistics for pregnant women in the King Country and South Waikato.
The Waikato District Health Board has started a six-week round of consultation asking for feedback on its proposed reshape of maternity services in Te Kuiti, Tokoroa and Taumarunui.
The proposal would see the Te Kuiti birthing unit shut and replaced by a hub that would deal with maternity services other than birth and postnatal stay.
Local women would have to travel to other units to give birth, such as the one in Te Awamutu, which is a 40 minute drive away.
Under the health board proposal, birthing facilities in Taumarunui and Tokoroa would be enhanced.
The DHB has 11 birthing facilities across the region, managing about 5000 births a year.
Nearly 3500 of these births are at Waikato Hospital.
Waikato DHB community and clinical support executive director Mark Spittal updated board members on the proposal last week, saying they should expect both good and bad feedback.
‘‘There was a general recognition at the [public] meeting that I was at that more of the same
‘‘...more of the same simply does not cut the mustard.’’
simply does not cut the mustard when the health statistics for pregnant women in many of the communities are the way that they are,’’ Spittal said.
‘‘Taumarunui is a case in point, where 70 per cent of young mothers who birth in that region are classified as obese and one in two of them smoke during pregnancy.
The board will be asked to make a decision on the proposal in late April.
Spittal said staff want to shift the focus away from the 48 hours surrounding a birth and onto the 10 months of pregnancy.
He said a ‘‘significant number’’ of Te Kuiti women already opted to give birth outside the region which was further challenging the viability of the birthing unit.
Spittal anticipated that staff, other providers, and the public will have ideas about how to get better integrated care for mothers and their young babies.
‘‘There comes a point in time when the viability, both clinically and financially, of maintaining a very small unit just for birthing becomes really challenging.
‘‘What we would prefer to do is put money that we are currently spending on bricks and mortar into services that really address some of the core issues. The downside will be that there is some increased travel for some at time of birth.’’