Anger over maternity unit's closure

Baby
The DHB says there just aren't enough people in the area to justify its continued operation. Photo credit: Getty

Women will be forced to give birth on the side of the road if a Southland birthing unit is closed, it's been claimed.

The Lumsden Maternity Centre caters to around 110 women a year, but the Southern District Health Board wants to downgrade its services.

Midwife Sarah Stokes says people are angry, upset and in disbelief.

"The town held a rally last year when there was a threat that we wouldn't be able to carry on with the contract to run the facility… they just can't believe they're having to do it all again."

A rally will take place on Saturday. A petition against its closure has more than 2500 signatures, RNZ reported on Friday. Backers include MPs Liz Craig, Hamish Walker and Mark Peterson.

Mr Walker, a National MP, said former leader Bill English was born there.

Ms Stokes says it's a very well-utilised unit.

"We have excellent exclusive breastfeeding rates, low levels of post-natal depression - 'cause women don't start to feel they have to go home straight after the birth. They're very confident by the time they leave us."

She has clients from as far away as Kingston, and Fiordland.

Ms Stokes says its closure will mean more babies born on the sides of roads - with a case in point this week, when a woman an hour away called her with mild contractions.

"She'd never had made it to Winton or Invercargill," says Ms Stokes.

The DHB says there just aren't enough people in the area to justify its continued operation.

Newshub.