“An absolute necessity”, “a place we feel safe” and “a vital service”.
These are three of the comments on a petition launched by Waikato midwives to save the Huntly birth unit.
Birthcare Huntly is due to close on October 31st after the operators (Evolution Healthcare), cited a number of reasons, last month.
Five community-based midwives who have committed to working in the area and supporting the needs at Birthcare, say the unit is now fully staffed and any claims of a shortage of midwives are not correct.
One of the midwives, Bernie Miers, says none of the issues are insurmountable and when it comes to safety, choice and positive outcomes for women and their babies, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“We don’t understand why Te Whatu Ora would not ensure the birthing unit can stay open. It needs their funding of course but that’s what they do – fund essential services and this is definitely one of those,” she says.
Ms Miers adds that The Kahu Taurima ‘first 2000 days of life’ joint approach to maternity and early years plan to “deliver excellent, well connected, easy to navigate, culturally affirming health services for all wāhine and whānau, no matter who they are, and whoever they are, and wherever they are” absolutely aligns with what Birthcare Huntly does.
“The -Kahu Taurima plan wants to achieve pretty much everything the Huntly unit does, and if the unit closes, the aims of Kahu Taurima are severely compromised. Women will have greater barriers to accessing the service they want, the maternity service is not integrated with other parts of the service in the local community any longer, extra support will be more difficult to access, and quality, safety and equity of outcomes for our women and babies are not improved,” says Ms Miers. “So how does closing this service help any of us? It doesn’t”.
One woman who has signed the petition wrote: “Closing the only birthing unit in town takes away the mums choice to have baby where they feel safe and secure in a local service with carers that can purely focus on the job at hand. Not everyone is able to travel for medical care out of town, and our ambulance service is already flat out. Closing the unit has a greater chance of endangering lives of mums and/or babies.
Bernie Miers says the announcement by the National Party yesterday about extending post-natal stays without any acknowledgment of the infrastructure, the maternity beds needed, is curious to say the least.
“How’s that going to work if these essential primary units keep closing? A significant number of Wahine and Pēpi transfer to Huntly from Waikato, for their post-natal care. Christchurch lost St Georges earlier this year, Wellington hasn’t had a primary unit for some years – we can’t just magic them back up when the penny drops that they are essential parts of our maternity service,” she says.
The presentation of the petition, which has more than 2500 signatures as of 11am Thursday, will take place on Friday the 13th October – details are still being confirmed.