Protest against birthing unit closure

Protest against birthing unit closure

Politicians, midwives and mothers gathered in Christchurch today, protesting to keep a birthing unit in the city's east.

Burwood Hospital closed its birthing wing indefinitely after last month's 5.7 magnitude earthquake, and there are fears it won't be replaced.

It's a quake-troubled community, fighting to give their mothers a choice. More than 3000 people have signed a petition to keep the birthing unit open in the east.

For decades it was Burwood Hospital, but that's looking increasingly at risk.

"We've suffered a lot in the East, and to have our primary birthing unit not replaced is an absolute tragedy," says Christchurch East MP Poto Williams.

The hospital's earthquake-prone birthing unit was closed after the Valentine's Day quake. There's suspicion it's a ploy to save money and shut the service down forever.

"All my women due in March were planning to birth at Burwood, and I know they were really upset about having to change last minute," says midwife Gwen Glazzard.

Local midwives say the closest alternatives -- allowing long stays -- are out of town in Rangiora and Lincoln.

"Some of those women are catching buses to appointments," says community midwife Sarah Wills. "They don't have transportation, and they're now expected to travel 40 minutes to another area."

It's a potentially dangerous trip for a community already hammered by the quakes.

"If you're talking about a snowy winter night and they do have to drive that far and they are caught on the road, who knows," says Ms Wills.

The DHB declined our interview request but stressed the health and safety issues in a statement, saying it is still working through a mix of earthquake and asbestos issues.