Another Maternity Facility To Go – We Say No, No No......

Friday 29 September 2023, 7:54AM

By RedPR



Midwives from the Waikato have launched a campaign to save their *primary birthing facility.

The operators of Birthcare Huntly, Evolution Healthcare, intend to close the unit on October 31st citing declining usage, staff shortages and financial deficits as the reasons.

A successful recruitment drive by midwives has seen five now base themselves in North Waikato to work in the community, which includes working with their clients who want to have a primary unit birth at Birthcare, which is now fully staffed. The lower numbers using the unit relates to Covid, and the financial deficits are the result of under-funding.

Bernie Miers says she and her midwife colleagues, Pauline Lea, Viv Sim, Elyse Lichtwark and Nitya Lakshmanan are all thankful to Evolution Healthcare for their backing over the past three years and understand their decision to close Birthcare.

“You can’t keep running a service without adequate funding. It’s just not feasible and we get that. But we can’t lose this service. If Birthcare closes, it will be the first time in 90 years that we have been without a primary maternity unit in Huntly. We are absolutely focussed on keeping this service available for our women and their babies,” she says.

The midwives understand another operator is in discussions with another provider to take over the service but for this to happen safely and effectively, increased funding needs to be allocated by local Te Whatu Ora.

“We believe that Te Whatu Ora has been approached multiple times by both Evolution and the potential new operator seeking a funding increase. We think the refusal to increase funding is the main driving factor behind the closure of Birthcare Huntly,” says Ms Miers.

Pauline Lea says the benefits of maintaining primary maternity services and providing choice for women and their families are well known.

“We have all seen the negative impacts that withdrawing these services has. Our community knows this too and they have added their voices without hesitation to this cause, and we stand beside them in fighting for their right to safe accessible care,” says Ms Lea.

The midwives add that the service is not only critical for birthing choices and outcomes but also as a place women transfer after having a baby in hospital. Additionally the primary unit provides the equipment, location and staff support that midwives need to perform urgent assessments on whānau, 24/7. Over the last year there have been more than 100 urgent assessments undertaken for hapū wāhine and pēpi.

Another midwife behind the campaign to keep Birthcare Huntly open is Viv Sim. She says the wāhine who experience bringing their babies into the world at Birthcare, return to have their other babies, to support family members and to meet their mokopuna as they enter the world.

“The experiences we hear from women make it very clear that this primary birthing service is absolutely crucial to this community. When our wāhine and whānau want to birth at Birthcare, as local midwives, it is always our goal to support them to birth here. That choice will be taken from them if it closes, and choice is an important part of a woman managing her own birth plan and being confident in her decisions,” she says.


Below are some of the experiences received from women who have had their babies at Birthcare in Huntly:


“A place that embodied Te Whatu Ora’s maternity policy to “place whānau at the heart to improve equity and health outcomes.”  Geoff and Jas


“Thank you for making it possible for my tamariki to be born on their whenua tūpuna, right next to their tūpuna awa Waikato and our tūpuna maunga, Taupiri. This is where I wanted to meet both my tamariki in the physical world.” Te Kura


“To see this place standing tall always gives me memories of each time I spent here at Huntly birth unit, seeing my younger siblings born here to being in the room myself.”  Jasmine

“I’ve had all my 7 children here.” Shannon


“All 4 of my siblings were born here, all my cousins, friends, uncles and aunties kids were born here. I want all my future kids to be born here.” Waimiria


“Not only is our Huntly birthing centre a safe haven for all local māmā, it’s also a reliance for us. Somewhere we can confidently step foot in, when we’re in our most vulnerable state.”  Hiria


“Huntly Birthcare is more than a primary birthing facility, it is a whānau health hub, a place where women feel safe, a place where you were fed and given resources for your whānau, a place that was led by midwives that genuinely love the women that come through the doors.” Kelly


“This service is an essential part of our community health and well-being.”  Nancy


“Our women deserve better. There will be more barriers to women accessing care. All the wāhine who give birth super-fast and won’t make it to the hospital, I feel for them. The mums who need a 45 minute check up when baby is not moving… Will they call when they know they now have to go to Hamilton for this. All the māmā with transport and childcare issues. All the māmā who come in for pregnancy tests and help to find a midwife. All the māmā who come in for hearing screening tests with their newborns. All the māmā who come to family planning.” Tui


“I was a postnatal nurse at Waikato [hospital]. I often sent our families to Huntly to get exceptional care by the beautiful team there. Birth centres in Hamilton were frequently full (as was the hospital!!) so Huntly often stepped up for our beautiful mums and babes who needed that extra time and lots of TLC. Closing Huntly is a BAD idea. It is a much needed resource.”  Leanne


“It is not just a birthing unit it’s our Āhurutanga (safe place) for new mums, our babies, our whānau and our hapori.” Sierra


“I felt so well looked after and it was incredible to have that support at such a vulnerable stage. Many of my friends had no after-birth care because centres across the Waikato were so full!”  Anonymous


“Taking this Birthcare away is not in the best interest for the community, nor its surrounding rural areas.”  Louise