Midwives from the Waikato have launched a campaign to save their primary birthing facility.
The operators of Birthcare Huntly, Evolution Healthcare, intend to close the unit on October 31st citing declining usage, staff shortages and financial deficits as the reasons.
A successful recruitment drive by midwives has seen five now base themselves in North Waikato to work in the community, which includes working with their clients who want to have a primary unit birth at Birthcare, which is now fully staffed. The lower numbers using the unit relates to Covid, and the financial deficits are the result of under-funding.
Bernie Miers says she and her midwife colleagues, Pauline Lea, Viv Sim, Elyse Lichtwark and Nitya Lakshmanan are all thankful to Evolution Healthcare for their backing over the past three years and understand their decision to close Birthcare.
“You can’t keep running a service without adequate funding. It’s just not feasible and we get that. But we can’t lose this service. If Birthcare closes, it will be the first time in 90 years that we have been without a primary maternity unit in Huntly. We are absolutely focussed on keeping this service available for our women and their babies,” she says.
The midwives understand another operator is in discussions with another provider to take over the service but for this to happen safely and effectively, increased funding needs to be allocated by local Te Whatu Ora.
“We believe that Te Whatu Ora has been approached multiple times by both Evolution and the potential new operator seeking a funding increase. We think the refusal to increase funding is the main driving factor behind the closure of Birthcare Huntly,” says Ms Miers.
Pauline Lea says the benefits of maintaining primary maternity services and providing choice for women and their families are well known.
“We have all seen the negative impacts that withdrawing these services has. Our community knows this too and they have added their voices without hesitation to this cause, and we stand beside them in fighting for their right to safe accessible care,” says Ms Lea.
The midwives add that the service is not only critical for birthing choices and outcomes but also as a place women transfer after having a baby in hospital. Additionally the primary unit provides the equipment, location and staff support that midwives need to perform urgent assessments on whānau, 24/7. Over the last year there have been more than 100 urgent assessments undertaken for hapū wāhine and pēpi.
Another midwife behind the campaign to keep Birthcare Huntly open is Viv Sim. She says the wāhine who experience bringing their babies into the world at Birthcare, return to have their other babies, to support family members and to meet their mokopuna as they enter the world.
“The experiences we hear from women make it very clear that this primary birthing service is absolutely crucial to this community. When our wāhine and whānau want to birth at Birthcare, as local midwives, it is always our goal to support them to birth here. That choice will be taken from them if it closes, and choice is an important part of a woman managing her own birth plan and being confident in her decisions,” she says.