Two maternity units proposed for Wanaka and Central Otago

Nov 03, 2020

From the Southern District Health Board:

Working with local midwives to develop new operating models may mean two new primary birthing units in the Central Otago/ Wanaka area are possible.


The Southern District Health Board today approved a recommendation, developed by the DHB and the Central Lakes Locality Network following months of consultation, to establish one primary birthing unit at Dunstan Hospital, and a second unit in in Wanaka, if possible.


It was noted that establishing two units for the area will require developing an operating model in collaboration with local midwives, to ensure the units are sustainable with the number of projected births in the region.


However, the board agreed it was worth exploring this, given the distance women and families in Wanaka currently need to travel to the nearest birthing unit in the region, currently in Alexandra.


If such an operating model cannot be achieved, further work will be undertaken to enable the board to consider a single birthing unit for the Central Otago/ Wanaka area, which would be located at either Dunstan Hospital, or at a new undetermined site in Cromwell.


In making the recommendation, Southern DHB General Manager Primary and Population Health Mary Cleary Lyons acknowledged that the Central Otago/ Wanaka area is unique in New Zealand when it comes to the provision of maternity services given its distance from secondary services, in such a challenging geography.


“This has meant we have needed to explore creative solutions, as we find the right balance between providing more facilities, and ensuring those facilities are well utilised and sustainable,” Cleary Lyons says.


While the details of such an arrangement have not yet been agreed, an option could involve collaborating with a community trust or local health care provider, and LMC midwives collaboratively working as a team to deliver care.


Meanwhile, establishing a primary birthing unit at Dunstan Hospital is an opportunity to develop a purpose built, modern facility with immediate access helicopter transfer, says Southern DHB Director of Midwifery Heather La Dell.


“We appreciate the enormous contribution of the team at Charlotte Jean maternity over many years, and heard that many women appreciated the supportive environment there. We sincerely thank their team for their professionalism as we have worked through this consultation process with the community.


“We now have an opportunity to design services for the future. We believe that developing these two units in these locations better meets the needs for the community in relation to the priorities that have been identified.”


The recommendations come following months of consultation with families and health providers across the region, including two public meetings and receiving over 500 written submissions and survey responses.


In endorsing the options, Acting Southern DHB Chair Dr David Perez acknowledged the significant input from across the community since the consultation began in February.


“This has been a challenging issue that our community is understandably passionate about. Through the tremendous engagement with community members, midwives and other health care providers, we can feel confident that all the dimensions of the issue have been raised and considered and appropriately weighed.


“By working collaboratively and thinking creatively, a very compelling recommendation has been presented to us. We look forward to continued progress in confirming that a two-model solution, including a long-awaited birthing unit in Wanaka, can be brought to reality.”


“We are especially appreciative of the LMC midwives who have been open to exploring alternative models in the interests of the women they serve, and the willingness to think creatively about approaches that could work.”

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