Save Lumsden Maternity - Reverse the Closure

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The Lumsden Maternity Centre was closed in April 2019 with the removal of Primary Birthing Unit status birthing and postnatal care facilities.

What does this mean? There will no longer be birthing or postnatal inpatient care for mothers and babies in Lumsden.

As a rural person, voter and taxpayer my family and I deserve access to a Primary Birthing Unit that is within an acceptable distance of where I reside.

I object to the closure of Lumsden Maternity Centre and seek your support to help turn this decision around.

Birth is an incredible and vulnerable time for an expectant mother and having a Primary Facility such as Lumsden available for families in my community is an essential requirement.

o The SDHB decision to close Lumsden from a Primary Birthing unit is premature given Census results are not due until October. Te Anau which is within the “catchment area” is experiencing huge growth with base figures indicating 45 families a year are moving to the town. Lumsden, Garston and Athol are experiencing growth as is Kingston with over 1000 sections soon to be developed.


o Research shows that Primary Birthing Units have much higher rates of natural births than those in a hospital setting, which translates to better outcomes for mothers and babies in a low risk birth situation.

o The higher incidence of natural births places less pressure on SDHB budget when compared with a hospital birth which has much higher rate of interventions during the birth – even for a low risk mother (e.g. augmenting the labour with Pitocin, epidurals, caesarean sections, episiotomies etc).

o Interventions from a Hospital environment can also lead to more complications postpartum including haemorrhage, difficulty breastfeeding, bonding, mental health/postnatal depression etc. The cost to the DHB of a caesarean birth is more than four times an unassisted birth.

o Time and time again we are hearing from mothers that Southland Hospital is cold and unwelcoming due to the stretched workload on staff there. New mothers were struggling with breastfeeding and what to do with their newborn until their midwife referred them back to Lumsden after delivery at Southland Hospital.

o The World Health Organisation (WHO), The Ministry of Health and The NZ Breastfeeding Authority all promote breastfeeding as the Gold Standard of infant feeding. There is no doubt that breastfeeding is best for mothers, and best for babies, throughout their lives, but it is also best for families, best for communities, best for the environment and best for the economy. There is evidence that indicates Primary Birthing Units such as Lumsden support women to initiate and establish breastfeeding to a far greater level than Secondary and Tertiary units.

o Southland Hospital doesn’t have the bed space required to cater for additional births in the event that Lumsden Maternity Centre is closed. Parents have experienced having to birth in consulting rooms in Southland Hospital as birthing rooms were full, or being made to sit in the hallway for hours after the baby has been delivered as there were no beds available.

o Ministry of Health (MoH) funding structure for Primary Birthing units appears to solely rely on the number of pregnancies in the catchment and does not give any weight to the risk to mothers of extra travel times from home to the nearest birth centre - should Lumsden be closed, labouring mothers would be required to travel up to 160km to Invercargill. The closure of these centres would increase the risk of babies being born on the side of the icy road en route to Southland Hospital (a minimum of 2 hours travel from Te Anau for example).

o Removal of Primary Maternity Services at Lumsden will have a ripple effect on Voluntary organisations, in particular St John and potentially the Fire Brigade and Police. More women will be having babies on the road side (at least one baby born during March 2018 would have been delivered on the roadside if Lumsden was not there). Safety and emergency services are going to be stretched to cope if Lumsden is closed as there will be no Primary Maternity facility fit for purpose in Lumsden.

o The SDHB figures appear to include years in the past where there have been lower than normal births in the facility rather than the most current years where birthing numbers at Lumsden have been higher. One local midwife has to date delivered 10 babies on her own at Lumsden (01 January 2018 to 11 March 2018). She is not the only midwife practicing at this clinic and so actual current births are higher than data SDHB is relying upon for this decision.

o Lumsden is more than a place for mothers to give birth, it is also a place where mothers who have delivered their babies elsewhere can return for Inpatient Services that support and nurture. The SDHB decision has not given any consideration to where those new mothers now turn for help and respite while bonding and healing for the first few days after birth.

o More mothers and fathers will suffer mental health conditions such as Post Natal Depression and Anxiety as there will be no grounding support for new Rural families to bond and learn how to look after their babies should Lumsden be closed from a Primary Maternity Facility. This will place greater stress on the Karitane and Plunket nurses whom already have a stretched workload

o Rural women's health in general has been underfunded by the SDHB and the removal of this key aspect of Primary health services at Lumsden further disadvantages rural families.

I rely on you to ensure our voices are heard.

Our community strongly opposes the decision to close Lumsden from a centre that is fully stocked and fit for purpose to deliver our communities babies and seek for this decision to be overturned and investment considered in this essential rural community resource. Lumsden must be reopened immediately.

We must invest in our rural communities and reopen Lumsden as a Primary Birthing Unit (birthing and postnatal care facility).

The decision to Close Lumsden Maternity is a false economy. Rural women and babies have a right to local birthing facilities. Rural communities deserve this service.
You cannot remove any service from Lumsden without affecting women and babies’ rights and their health and right to a safe delivery environment.

You must re-open Lumsden now.