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This section contains media releases released a little while ago. Please note that due to the long time when some of these were released images have been removed and some links might no longer work.

October 4, 2013

Maternity Services Review

David Meates, chief executive of Canterbury and West Coast District Health Boards today released a summary report following a review of maternity services on the Coast.

The report provides specific recommendations for improvements in the quality and sustainability of the West Coast’s maternity services.

The review team, comprised of clinicians from the Coast, Canterbury and beyond, made a number of recommendations, with West Coast DHB clinical leaders, managers and Board endorsing most of the report’s recommendations.

A key finding from the review team is that it is essential to maintain a full maternity service (where caesarean sections can be carried out) at Grey Base Hospital for exactly the same reasons that make maintaining such a service challenging; geographical isolation, recruitment and retention difficulties, and transport difficulties as a result of terrain and weather.

Another key recommendation is that the Kawatiri primary birthing unit at Buller Hospital (in Westport) discontinues being a place where planned deliveries can occur. The number of births at the Kawatiri Unit has been consistently low since 2004; in 2012 there were a total of 19 births, with four months where no births occurred. Over a prolonged period, many women resident in Westport have chosen to birth outside of the region. Only approximately 20% of Buller women due to give birth chose to have their baby in Westport.

Review team member and Head of Department Obstetrics and Gynaecology Dr Vicki Robertson emphasises that the Kawatiri unit is not closing; it will remain open to provide antenatal care and postnatal care with provision for emergency delivery if needed in extenuating circumstances.

Dr Robertson says, “For the past three months women in Buller have not been able to have a planned birth at Kawatiri as we do not have enough midwives to safely staff that service – two midwives must be in attendance for all births.

“The review confirmed that ongoing staff shortages and the potential for the service to have unpredictable workforce interruptions are reasons to cease the service. This unpredictability has safety implications. Women’s expectations of the service lead to understandable distress when at short notice their care cannot be provided locally.”

Programme director for WCDHB, Michael Frampton, says the recent announcement of a new Integrated Family Health Centre, including a Labour Delivery Recovery Post-Natal room, is part of the solution that is needed in Westport before a return to a planned birthing service can be considered. Other factors include issues around transport / transfers to Greymouth, attraction of additional midwives and improving the stability of the GP workforce [as GPs provide important medical back-up for midwives].

“There is a possibility that planned birthing could return to Buller. However, a number of critical safety issues must be met before that could occur. We have met with the Kawatiri Action Group (KAG) and will continue to keep them and the community informed of our plans. It is pleasing that KAG share our concerns about being able to provide a safe, consistent and reliable service for Buller women.”

Buller Midwife Tanya McConaghey said the DHB is offering financial support to Buller women planning to birth in Greymouth. “This funding will consist of accommodation and travel cost reimbursement and will be arranged when women are finalising their birthing plans. I will be able to travel with my clients to Greymouth and be present at the birth to support them right throughout their pregnancy, “says Tanya McConaghey.

Details of the support package are being finalised and will be communicated to expectant women in the Buller region next week.

Mr Frampton says there were a number of recommendations in the report regarding recruitment and retention of staff and arrangements for transport and transfer of pregnant women, and the DHB’s initial focus will be on these important aspects of its maternity services.

Director of Midwifery for the West Coast DHB Karyn Kelly, and Director of Midwifery for the Canterbury District Health Board Sam Burke say they are both looking forward to working collaboratively.

“We will be looking at different ways of organising transport and transfers, and importantly there will be a renewed focus on recruitment and retention along with the introduction of quality plans and systems that will help improve outcomes for mothers and their babies” says Karyn Kelly.


Who was in the review team?

The review team was led by Dr Clare Doocey, Clinical Director of Paediatric Medicine at Canterbury District Health Board. Team members included Dr Vicki Robertson, Head of Department - Obstetrics and Gynaecology, West Coast DHB;  Dr Keith Allenby, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist - Counties Manukau District Health Board; Anne Atkins, Acting Clinical Midwifery Manager - West Coast District Health Board and  Dr Lesa Freeman, Maternity Quality and Safety Programme Co-ordinator for Canterbury and West Coast District Health Boards

For further information please contact:

Karalyn van Deursen

Strategic Communications Manager

t: (03) 364 4103

m: 027 531-4796

Canterbury & West Coast District Health Boards

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