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Maternity report highlights improvements for rural community services - Waikato DHB

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The opening of a refurbished birthing unit at Tokoroa and Waikato’s first Maternity Resource Centre at Te Kuiti were among several initiatives to better support Waikato women and their whānau in rural communities in the past financial year.

The latest Waikato DHB Maternity Annual Report covering 2018/19 also features the launch of a rural lactation service and the growing use of telehealth for virtual consultations during pregnancy where a trip to Waikato Hospital would incur considerable travel time and costs. The virtual consultation service started at Thames Birthing Unit, and its success means it will expand to Taumarunui, Tokoroa and Te Kuiti.

Director of Women’s and Children’s Health Michelle Sutherland says these initiatives recognise the large geographical areas covered by Waikato DHB and the very real access issues facing women in rural areas.

"Where possible and safe, women want to spend their pregnancy and give birth at home or in the community nearby, and we are increasingly finding ways to support that, whether by outreach services, better local facilities or by technology," says Sutherland.

Waikato has the highest number of well women birthing in the community either at home or in one of the eight primary birth facilities across the region. When comparing Waikato women with national statistics, Waikato women have a higher rate of uncomplicated births and fewer interventions - which means lower rates of induction, augmentation, epidurals and caesarean sections.

Recent areas of concern, including the rate of women smoking during pregnancy and staff shortages, showed improvement in the 2018/19 year thanks to focused effort.

"We have had the highest rate of pregnant women referred to stop smoking services and the highest numbers of women stopping smoking," Sutherland says.

The DHB is also on target to have full medical staff in obstetrics by February 2020. The number of nurses and midwives employed in Waikato Hospital has increased, however midwifery coverage by Lead Maternity Carers (LMCs) in rural communities continues to be challenging. The modernised birthing unit at Tokoroa and a concerted effort at Thames has resulted in much better access to LMCs in those areas.

The Maternity Annual Report includes the detailed report of the Waikato Maternity Quality and Safety Programme (MQSP).

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