Rural Women New Zealand unhappy with Southland maternity reviews

A group representing rural women says something needs to be done about maternity services in Southland before a tragedy occurs.

There's been growing concern over maternity services in the region after the downgrading of Lumsden Maternity Centre.

In the latest incident, a baby was born in the carpark of the new maternity hub - the third emergency birth since the town's birthing centre was downgraded in April.

Southland woman Amanda McIvor gave birth to her son Levi in the back of an ambulance just outside Lumsden in May, and in June a woman was forced to give birth in Lumsden's emergency birthing facility and then immediately travel for an hour to the nearest primary birthing facility.

The Southern District Health Board (SDHB) has since announced two independent reviews into its Primary Maternity System of Care.

However Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is disappointed with the reviews and said more focus needed to be on action. 

National Chair Penny Mudford said the proposed reviews are hampered by specific criteria and neither would provide a much-needed overview of the strategy and the present situation in Southland.

"It is clear to us that the Government policy of rural proofing has probably not been used by the SDHB in the development of this strategy," she said.

"Access to essential health services including proper maternity services for rural women and babies, is needed by rural communities," said Mudford

She said RWNZ was eager to hear the outcome of a petition currently before Parliament's Health Select Committee seeking retention of the Lumsden birthing unit.

"We also support the second petition entitled 'Save Lumsden Maternity - the Reverse the Closure".

Mudford said RWNZ was deeply concerned that the lives of rural women and their families were at risk while the current impasse over maternity services in Southland continues.

"SHDB needs to be held to account before a tragedy occurs."