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Maternity services in Buller facing the axe

Maternity services in Buller facing the axe

“Surely if there is the ability to provide emergency birthing services how can it be that normal deliveries are not possible in Westport?” asks Democrats for Social Credit health spokesman David Tranter.

While most people no longer expect logic from those running the public health system the chair of the WCDHB, Paul McCormack, will have West Coasters really scratching their heads at his pronouncement on maternity services at the last board meeting; "the board had believed it could not provide safe, routine, normal deliveries in Buller", but followed this with "Kawatiri (Westport maternity facility) still offered antenatal, postnatal and emergency birthing services". (Westport News 24 Feb.).

The matter arose when a board member put a motion calling for planned birthing to be reinstated at Kawatiri. This was defeated 9-2 and was even voted against by one of Buller's two board representatives.

The management shambles surrounding Buller maternity services was highlighted by a board member's enquiry as to what the board had done to address safety issues raised in its 2007 review of maternity services. Management's response was that a "progress report" would be provided to the next DHB meeting.

“With seven years to take action it has to be asked why the present situation has arisen” Mr. Tranter said.

“Given that management also admitted it has yet to address many recommendations in a Coast-wide maternity services review completed nine months ago it is obvious that either West Coast management is not up to the task - or there is an underlying agenda to completely close maternity services in Buller.

“Management's attempts to fudge the issue were typified by another piece of meaningless bureaucratic jargon when DHB programme director Michael Frampton told the board meeting there had been “slippage” in addressing review recommendations. "Slippage" - for seven years?

“Evasion, incompetence and misleading the public would be a more accurate description” Mr. Tranter said. The Concise Oxford Dictionary definitions of "slip" include to "lose footing and balance", and "blunder", which in my view gives an accurate description of management's performance over Buller maternity services. Even now management's proposed maternity "work programme" - whatever that means - is to be "delivered over the next 12 to 18 months" - hardly indicative of urgency.

“By coincidence I am presently writing an address to be given by the Democrats to a Perinatal Mental Health Trust Conference” Mr. Tranter said. “A reading of the Trust's website reveals the great vulnerability of many mothers and babies and the need for sensitive support - something which hardly equates with management's agenda to send Buller women to Greymouth away from their friends and families at this crucial time in their lives.

“Several decades ago before successive governments decimated New Zealand's rural hospital network many of those facilities provided safe maternity services - and at remarkably small cost. Yet after innumerable so-called health "reforms" and the corporatisation of health management these services are being whittled away. Given the huge reductions in previously proposed budgets for re-building Greymouth and Westport's hospitals West Coasters can be forgiven for suspecting that ending Westport maternity services is just another step in centralising Coast services to Christchurch. It is an indictment of the meaningless role of having seven locally elected members on DHB boards that even these people are so often willing to endorse the political/bureaucratic agendas to undermine local health services which they are supposedly there to advocate for” Mr. Tranter said.


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