SDHB may cut birth cord

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Local midwives are worried about a deafening silence from Southland District Health Board on the future of Queenstown maternity services. 

The childbirth assistants are “deeply concerned”, Wakatipu Health Trust’s Maria Cole says. 

Some of the 10 local midwives – frightened of recriminations if they speak out directly – have approach-ed her in confidence. 

A 21-page report on how SDHB plans to exit the Wakatipu, handing over Lakes District Hospital to a local “board of governance” for part-privatisation by Queenstown GPs, makes no mention of mater-nity services. 

“Given the priority of maternity services and the level of community angst about the lack of them, it’s unfathomable there’s no reference to maternity in the consultation document,” Cole says. 

The omission has also aroused suspicion among midwives over job security, she adds. 

Cole also cites as “a possibility” that SDHB may cut the umbilical cord on local public maternity care altogether, forcing mums to Invercargill or Dunedin for free birthing – or paying to go private to have their children born here.
“[Maternity] may also be contracted out,” Cole says – SDHB boss Brian Rousseau told her months ago that an Auckland provider was keen on a Queenstown contract. 

“We’re not aware of any undertakings being made but if any contract’s to be let out, that should be a decision for LDH’s new board of governance,” Cole says. 

“My feeling is that SDHB has put maternity services in the too-hard basket and just left it out [of the consultation process].” 

Asked why the report ignores maternity services, Rousseau says: “Probably an oversight, to be quite honest.”
The main thrust of the document is to set out “governance structures”, he adds. 

During almost a decade of community outrage over SDHB short-changing the Wakatipu, maternity services and elderly-care facilities have most frequently hogged the headlines. 

As Cole points out, the SDHB proposal has comprehensive references to the latter.