Southland Hospital maternity unit full
The house full sign was up at Southland Hospital’s maternity unit on four occasions since April and the hospital was poised to transfer any other women in emergency labour to Dunedin if needed.
None needed to be transferred, but Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said it was yet another reason why it would be ‘‘a reckless decision’’ to downgrade the Lumsden Maternity Centre.
Last weekend was the fourth time since April the Southern District Health Board had informed midwives of the possibility of taking women in emergency labour to Dunedin Hospital because Southland Hospital was unable to cope with any more cases.
Had a woman gone into emergency labour in Te Anau, she could have faced a four-hour drive to Dunedin.
Southland Hospital has four dedicated birthing rooms and 14 antenatal/postnatal rooms.
Southern District Health Board acting chief executive Lisa Gestro said the rooms could be used flexibly depending on requirements.
Stuff understands at least one Southland woman was directed to Dunedin earlier this year to give birth because Invercargill’s maternity suite was full, so asked the board how often this occurred.
In response, Gestro said: ‘‘As one DHB, we are pleased to have the Women’s Health Departments at the two hospitals backing up each other should the need arise. ‘‘If capacity is exceeded in either department, then women travelling from elsewhere in the district, such as Central Otago, may be directed to our other base hospital.’’
In April this year, the board introduced a new process for notifying when it was reaching capacity.
Since then it has been used four times in Southland.
Gestro said the DHB was not aware of any women having to transfer between facilities, or of any lead maternity carer having to divert to another primary birthing unit as a result of this.
‘‘Such decisions are taken after careful consideration and full consultation between the midwifery and obstetric teams at the two hospitals to determine the best course of action, taking a district wide view, with women’s safety as the primary concern.’’
Health Minister David Clark would not comment about maternity services at Southland Hospital, or whether the situation meant the Lumsden Maternity Centre should stay open, saying ‘‘this is an operational matter for Southern DHB to comment on’’.
The board announced last month that the Lumsden Maternity Centre is to be downgraded from a birthing centre to a maternal and child hub under its new Integrated Primary Maternity System of Care.
The Northern Southland Health Company, which runs the centre, is seeking legal advice about the downgrade.
Walker said Lumsden is equipped to take overflow from Southland Hospital if both Invercargill and Winton are full.
‘‘Lumsden is a remote maternity centre and services a large area between Kingston and Riversdale right up to Te Anau.
‘‘Closing or downgrading the unit will leave a massive hole in the region’s maternity services.’’