Kristi James and Iona Bentley presented their submission to the Health Select Committee last week via teleconference. The pair have been tirelessly campaigning for more midwifery support to Wanaka and are calling on the Southern District Health Board (DHB) to make good on their promise to deliver the promised maternity hub.
Bentley and James are mums, not midwives, but they have stepped up to fight the battle for Wanaka’s midwives who are so overworked they don’t have time—literally. In a 336-hour fortnight, Wanaka’s two midwives only get one 48-hour period when they are not on call.
The system for pre- and post-natal care in Wanaka is “catastrophically broken” according to James.
In 2018 “we had one Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) for almost 200 births. This is hugely different to the Ministry guidelines of one LMC per 40 births,” she said.
“We understand a birthing unit is not on the cards,” said James. “We just want what we’ve been promised which was documented in a report in August. It doesn't seem like there has been any progress. Where it will be, what it will look like, how will it be funded, when it will be available to us?”
James stated that she appreciates the DHB’s telehealth clinic and the small top up of $300 per woman but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the actual level of need.
“Years ago, midwives would travel to Dunedin with the mum when she was in labour but that was stopped. I had to drive to Dunedin in labour, through a remote rural route in winter, with no help. No ambulance, no support, no clinic,” said Bentley. “Midwives have stopped going to Dunedin and forgo the ‘catch-the-baby-fee’ because it’s not affordable for them to travel and stay in Dunedin.”
James stated very clearly that Wanaka needs more services and infrastructure. “We want the DHB to deliver on their promise. We want action on the maternal hub; when it will be built and what it’s going to look like. We want to be a part of that conversation.”
MP Jacqui Dean who has been championing Save our Wanaka Midwives, said “I believe Ministry of Health officials were surprised at the limited services available in the town, with one even commenting that Alexandra’s unit should be in Wanaka. Clearly shifting the services, which Alexandra women need to Wanaka, is only moving the problem from one area to another and is not an equitable solution.”
“I am hopeful that now that the Health Select Committee has been made aware of the maternity shortfalls in Wanaka, it will follow this issue through. I am encouraged that the Committee has asked the Southern DHB to report back to them on when Wanaka’s maternity hub will be operational. Although there are no specifics around a date, or a location, I think the Southern DHB will be under no illusion that this work must commence shortly.”
“I also intend to keep a close eye on these developments and hold the Southern DHB to account.”