Wānaka mums, midwives still waiting for definite date for birthing unit

by Lauren Pattemore - Apr 19, 2024

Two months out from what could be the opening of new birthing unit in Wānaka, Te Whatu Ora is dodging questions about when the long-awaited centre will be operational. 

It leaves midwives and pregnant women in the town still unable to count it among their birthing options.

A spokesperson for the health organisation says it is "on track to open" in the second half of 2024, but was unable to provide a more definitive date.

A midwife has told Crux they are proceeding as if the centre will not be up and running when planning births with mothers expecting to deliver in the second half of this year.

They say it's "really difficult" to plan when there isn't an exact date of opening. 

Originally, a mid 2023 opening date was flagged when the Albert Town building that is being converted into the birthing facility was purchased by the health authority, following years of campaigning by the community.

Meanwhile, midwives and mothers continue to birth in at times unsafe conditions, with Wānaka midwife Justine Quirke telling Crux earlier in the year she was sick of waiting and that births were too often unsafe and stressful due to inadequate facilities

The Te Whatu Ora spokesperson says the delay was caused by operational requirements resulting in an additional consent and redesign of floor plans.

"We are pleased with how work continues to progress on the unit with the reconfiguration of the building almost completed and installation of services now taking place...we know Wānaka residents are looking forward to it being operational. 

"Once finished, the unit will provide one birthing room, four whānau rooms, four antenatal clinic rooms and a birthing pool."

The unit is located on Monteith Road in Albert Town, in what was formerly a luxury lodge with an estimated value of $2.07 million bought by Te Whatu Ora.

The drawn-out process of establishing the birthing unit in the town was briefly touched on during a community forum held at the end of March.

Speaking after the event, Wānaka-Upper Clutha Community Board chair Simon Telfer, who facilitated a panel discussion on health service inequities experienced in the town, acknowledged birthing care was barely mentioned, likely because locals are so resigned to the failures in its delivery to date.

"It was touched on, and then the comment was, 'It's pretty hard to defend the indefensible, that this was a piece of infrastructure that was promised to be opened years ago and it's still, maybe, going to be opening this spring - but we've heard that before'."

Main image: Construction continues at the birthing unit on Thursday, April 18. 


Support Crux Support Crux