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Mum to thousands retiring

12 November 2012

Mum to thousands retiring

Alison Williams has climbed a few mountains during her time in charge of the Waikato District Health Board’s Mothercraft unit. But with retirement this week she’s lining up a real mountain.

First up is the 6200m Island Peak in the Himalayas … then there’s a 30-day France-Spain Camino pilgrimage trek with her husband, who luckily shares Alison’s fitness drive.

“I hope there’ll be no tears on Friday, I’ve been looking forward to this like a long holiday ahead,” she says of her last day after 24 years in charge of Mothercraft.

“There are things I want to do while I still can.”

Alison was an experienced nurse and midwife and had done Plunket training when she applied for the job in 1989, and admits being “quite shocked” to get it.

But her interest in child wellness must have shone through then as it has for 24 years.

The unit has around 300 admissions a year, plus the babies. Over 24 years that’s more than 7000 mums and more than that number of babies as there are often twins.

It’s been 24 years of guiding and supporting mothers.

“What we do here is a lot more than the name suggests,” Alison says.

Mothers will come in if they are having breastfeeding problems, need parenting skills, are adopting new infants, are exhausted and/or overloaded, or have post-natal depression.
Babies come in if they have feeding problems, are wakeful, crying babies, suffer infant colic or have poor weight gains, or if they have been in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit and aren’t ready to go home.

Mothercraft is unique in the New Zealand health scene, the only one of its kind, with its territory expanded to provide the service for all of the Midlands Health area.

Alison says changes in family structure and dynamics have had a big impact on the unit in her time there. Another change has come with the success of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit meaning more babies survive premature births and spend time at Mothercraft before heading home.

The challenges? “Knowing what you can provide and what you can’t. We can’t always fix it completely but we can make it somewhat better.”

The rewards make a longer list. There are a lot of appreciative people who know Alison and her team got them through a trying time. They often call in to say so. “A woman dropped off a lovely pram the other day. She didn’t need it any more but she remembered us 11 years later.”

Another reward is seeing mums going home on a Friday in a “completely different space” from when they arrived at the Monday-Friday unit.

“I’ve always had great staff to work with, really neat people.

“And I’ve had a really nice environment to work in,” she said referring to the eight-bedroom Lockwood house which sits on Waikato Hospital grounds.

“As a service it remains unique in New Zealand and we are very privileged to have it here.”

About Waikato District Health Board and Health Waikato:

Waikato DHB is responsible for planning, funding and providing quality health and disability support services for the 372,865 people living in the Waikato DHB region. It has an annual turnover of $1.2 billion and employs more than 6000 people.

Health Waikato is the DHB’s main provider of hospital and health services with an annual budget of more than $701 million and 5238 staff. It has six groups across five hospital sites, three primary birthing units, two continuing care facilities and 20 community bases offering a comprehensive range of primary, secondary and tertiary health services.

A wide range of independent providers deliver other Waikato DHB-funded health services - including primary health, pharmacies and community laboratories.


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