Charlotte Jean Maternity Hospital was forced to close for 36 hours on July 6 and on July 9 as a result of insufficient staffing levels. Facility manager Sue O'Brien reportedly sent the region's midwives a Facebook message that indicated an apology for being unable to accept admissions for births and postnatal care but allowed midwives to still use the facility if they supplied their own back-up midwife. The message noted that the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) had 'failed to come up with any solutions'.
The news prompted Waitaki Member of Parliament Jacqui Dean to accuse the SDHB of 'sitting on its hands while knowingly allowing Alexandra’s maternity hospital to close its doors to birthing mothers because of staff shortages'.
“Charlotte Jean Maternity was unable to accept any admissions for births or post natal care on two separate occasions recently," said Dean. “I understand that hospital management contacted the SDHB, three weeks prior to the first closure, and again on the eve of the first shutdown, but nothing was done. So not only was the SDHB aware of the hospital’s staffing shortages; they did little to help the Central Otago community, instead allowing the maternity hospital to cut services on both occasions.
She continued, “I find this lack of support is appalling, particularly when the SDHB is charged with providing birthing mothers across this region with access to safe and operational services. Central Otago women, from Wanaka to Cromwell and Alexandra, need reassurance that this birthing facility will be open when they need it and that no further shutdowns will occur.”