31 May 2022
The decision not to close the last non-hospital (primary) birthing facility in Christchurch until at least mid-next year is a “temporary relief” for women and midwives.
St George’s Hospital has announced it will keep its primary maternity service operating until at least mid-next year, if it can address staffing issues. Mid 2023 is also when the DHB new primary unit opens in the city.
Whereas this is positive in the short-term, the College of Midwives says the new central city unit was never meant to be a replacement for St George’s but additional to.
College Midwifery Advisor, Jacqui Anderson, says the ongoing erosion of women’s health and maternity in particular is very concerning.
“We are very pleased with the decision today however it’s troubling we are continuing to see that those in the health system with decision-making power, clearly disregard women as mothers, women as midwives and what is best for wāhine and whānau, long-term,” she says. “It’s incredibly disappointing that our midwifery-led maternity service is not being properly resourced and supported which affects our ability to deliver the world-leading model of care we have in place. It also affects retention of midwives in the profession and the attractiveness to new graduates. We must have effective midwifery services to enable choice, women’s confidence in those choices, and we all know the evidence is clear that supporting those choices fosters the best outcomes for mothers and babies,” she says.
Rata Midwives and supporters delivered a petition signed by more than 31,000 people, to the St George’s CE in mid-April. Rata spokesperson, midwife Sheena Ross, says today’s decision is a pleasing and they won’t give up fighting for women and babies.
“We are the largest city in the South Island and the second largest in New Zealand population-wise, and we need maternity choices and services that reflect that. Our midwives in Christchurch Women’s Hospital do an amazing job with the pressure and workload they’re dealing with so it makes sense to provide good, easily accessible primary maternity services for women who don’t need the bells and whistles of a big hospital,” she says.
The College says the midwifery profession is being significantly affected by the ongoing erosion of maternity services which does nothing to strengthen and grow Aotearoa’s midwifery-led maternity model which is the best in the world, bar none. Jacqui Anderson adds that the service has to be resourced properly and the College is “perplexed that the decision-makers just don’t understand that.”
“Recruitment and staffing are issues we have been raising for several years. Even as recently as earlier this month, the College questioned new immigration settings and why they were not as attractive for midwives coming into the country as they were for specialists and GP’s? We are pleased St George’s has acknowledged the input from their own maternity staff and MERAS on staffing suggestions, and look forward to the hospital successfully recruiting midwives to staff the service.”
The College and Rata Midwives will continue to advocate for midwives and women so that pregnant women’s birth choices are not further reduced, and the maternity service is properly resourced to provide the best outcomes for mothers and babies.
For more information, please contact Ali Jones (RedPR) on 0272473112
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Rata Midwives are Sheena Ross, Jackie Coursey, Candice Milner, Rachel Tong, Heidi Goebbels, Jo Ryde, Jo Wihongi, Kirsten Read and Hayley Gimblett.