Primary birthing facilities run by Waikato District Health Board (DHB) in Morrinsville and Te Awamutu will close in February next year, the board confirmed at its monthly meeting yesterday.
The board had already made the decision in March but gave the two communities opportunities to come up with proposals to operate integrated maternity facilities/ hubs elsewhere in the towns.
Two proposals came to the board, one from each town. Members deferred a decision on the Te Awamutu proposal for a month pending more information and voted not to proceed with a proposal for another in Morrinsville because of concerns the funding to build and operate a facility was not in place.
Information from the Morrinsville group suggested that funding was some way off and reliant on community support.
However board members made it clear that if there was a viable proposal presented for Morrinsville, in the future, it would be considered.
Board members said they appreciated the community’s input and while financial viability of a service is a provider risk, the DHB still needs assurances that any service is financially sustainable.
Earlier today board chair Bob Simcock informed Matamata Piako mayor Jan Barnes of the board decision. A Te Awamutu group needs another month to confirm it has a fully-funded project able to proceed prior to the Board making a decision on this proposal. Waikato DHB currently employs more than 100 midwives.
It has a secondary/tertiary hospital in Hamilton and six primary maternity units in Thames, Te Kuiti, Tokoroa, Taumarunui, Te Awamutu and Morrinsville.
It holds contracts with five primary birthing units in Huntly, Matamata, Waihi and two in Hamilton.
Waikato has the highest number of births outside of secondary care hospital services in New Zealand reflective of the geographical spread of the population and availability of primary birthing services.
Encouraging the option of clinically safe primary birthing is important to the DHB. The New Zealand Institute of Community Health Care carried out a study for Waikato DHB last year looking at the future of primary birthing facilities in Morrinsville and Te Awamutu.
The study came about after a steady decline in the number of women choosing to have their babies in the communities and instead opting for Hamilton rather than in their own community.
In the year from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013, 82 per cent of birthing women from Morrinsville/Te Aroha, and 86 per cent of birthing women in Te Awamutu, birthed in Hamilton, rather than in their local birthing units.
Just 70 women birthed at Rhoda Read for the same period – on average one every 5.37 days – and 68 at Matariki – one every 5.21 days.
Both Rhoda Read and Matariki are staffed 365 days a year, 24/7. The study showed that only 14-18 per cent of eligible women in the 2012-2013 year had their babies in the communities, which suggested that travelling to Hamilton for services had become usual practice.
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