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Community urged to protect women’s health in Whanganui

The Hon Tariana Turia
Maori Party Co-Leader | MP for Te Tai Hauauru

10 February 2012

Community urged to stand together to protect women’s health in Whanganui

Local MP for Te Tai Hauauru has come out strongly in support of the Whanganui community in light of proposed changes to maternity services in Whanganui.

“In essence, this is about families and their ability to support their women and children. The proposal to send women to Palmerston North for emergency birthing care has major implications for families, and the wider community.

“This isn’t just about women birthing – this is about the future of our city.

"We have to be able to promote Whanganui as a destination where people love to live. If this proposal goes ahead, I know for sure that families with young children will think twice about living here.

“One would have thought, given the economic considerations around this proposal, that the major players – the Chamber of Commerce, the Employers Federation, the City Council would have been eager to work with the DHB to devise a strategy to attract and retain specialist gynaecologists and obstetricians to our region.

“There is every likelihood that the majority of women who will be transferred for specialist or unplanned emergency care will be Maori. For expectant mothers living along the River Road, or in Raetihi, there will now be some anxiety associated with a two hour transfer to Palmerston North.

"We know there are some issues around the ambulance services and their capacity to take on increased demand for services. But there is also a whole range of hidden costs for families for private travel, including the fact they will have to pay for a carpark at Palmerston North Hospital. The key issue is that our most vulnerable families are more likely to be affected by this change.

“It’s not as if this crisis is a new one – we’ve been dealing with workforce issues around the maternity service for some twelve years now. Despite that, we have had a quality midwifery service which has been able to maintain continuity of care for vulnerable women which in my mind is an absolute must.

“It has to be of concern that this DHB has been unable to attract a specialist to our community, particularly given we are the largest of the smaller units undertaking less than 1000 births a year”. [In 2010 Whanganui had 760 births compared to 697 (Tairawhiti); 620 (South Canterbury) and 496 (Wairarapa).]

“We all want a safe, sustainable option – but the answer won’t come from expecting we can send a woman experiencing difficulties on a long drive to Palmerston.

"It doesn’t add up,” said Turia. “On the one hand Government talks about addressing poverty yet on the other introduces policy changes such as this which will impact most on families who are struggling.

“We need to have all the options in front of us – and come together for a community-wide solution that addresses the risk while at the same time achieving quality and clinical safety of local maternity services for Whanganui whanau.

“As a community we have stood shoulder to shoulder when it matters most. We must have the will to do so on this significant matter”.


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