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Southern DHB approves primary birthing unit for Wanaka

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Southern DHB has today agreed to establish a new primary birthing unit in Wanaka, pending the Ministry of Health’s approval for capital investment for the build.

The decision comes following extensive engagement with LMC midwives, health care workers, iwi, and community members, and is a further step towards implementing the Integrated Primary Maternity System of Care launched in 2018.

In supporting the establishment of the Unit, the board has agreed to a two-unit solution for the Central Otago and Wanaka area, with a second unit to be located at Dunstan Hospital in Clyde. The Clyde unit will replace Charlotte Jean Maternity, currently located in Alexandra.

There is also a primary birthing unit at Lakes District Hospital in Queenstown.

Southern DHB board chair Pete Hodgson said approving the Wanaka facility was a recognition of the town’s growing population, long distances from other centres, and the willingness of LMCs in the area to explore new approaches to working to create a sustainable service for the community.

“We thank all the women, whānau and everyone who cares for them, who have contributed to this important discussion, and worked constructively with us on a workable solution.

“I also want to acknowledge the DHB team who has worked with all of these stakeholders to develop a solution that balances the many issues and questions involved in this decision.”

Southern DHB covers the largest area of all DHBs, a challenging geography and weather and a relatively small population, Hodgson says.

“This means we need to face challenging issues around providing services that are sustainable from a population and workforce perspective, but also seeks to provide care closer to home. This is especially important in such a critical area as maternity services.

“This is a balance, and many people have worked hard to find a result that responds to what we have clearly heard from the women and communities we serve.”

It is anticipated that as well as providing a location for primary birthing and postnatal stays, the facilities will perform the function of the existing maternal and child hub. This includes space for LMC clinical activity, antenatal care, telehealth and clinics with consultants.

As well as developing a business case for submission to the Ministry of Health’s Capital Investment Committee, the DHB will also move to a request for proposals for service providers for the unit in Wanaka, and a new service at Dunstan Hospital in Clyde.