Jacinda Ardern confirms Southland DHB investigating babies 'born roadside'

Jacinda Ardern has confirmed she's awaiting the findings of the Southern District Health Board (DHB)'s investigation into a baby born on the side of the road last month. 

The Prime Minister said the DHB is "looking into what happened" after it was revealed last month that a baby was born in the back of an ambulance south of Lumsden as the mother raced to a primary birthing facility. 

"We're waiting to see the outcome of that work," Ardern said on Friday. "However it's, I'm told, very clear to the DHB they know the expectations people have: safe quality facilities."

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker, a National Party MP, revealed earlier this week that another baby was born in the area without the mother being able to make it to a primary maternity facility. 

The Government has been criticised over the babies "born roadside" for closing the Lumsden Maternity Centre in April and downgrading it to a hub only resourced for emergency births.

The Prime Minister said on Friday the challenge Southland has is "the fact that they've had a low number of births at Lumsden and they were having to deal with that". 

Ardern said she had spoken to Health Minister David Clark about the situation, and said the Government's expectation is that people have "safe and available facilities." 

The second baby born without making it to a primary birthing facility was born at the Lumsden Child and Maternal Hub emergency birthing facility, rather than the side of the road like last month. 

Walker has argued that the previous Lumsden Maternity Centre "would have acted as a safe and nearby facility for both of these mothers". 

"Having a hub instead of the Maternity Centre meant that in negative one degree weather, the new mother had to wrap up her newborn baby to leave for the nearest primary birthing facility, which is about an hour away."

Ardern said early last week she would take another look at the maternity services in Lumsden, but Walker criticised her for not doing enough. He said it's "now time for her to act and reinstate full services at the Lumsden Maternity Centre".

Walker said the National Party would reinstate Lumsden as a "full birthing unit" should the party be re-elected at the 2020 general election. 

The National MP's petition to keep the Lumsden Maternity Centre open as a primary birthing unit gathered over 5000 signatures, which was presented to the Health Select Committee earlier this year. 

The committee is expected to announce its decision next week.


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