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Crunching the numbers

At a community meeting held in Lumsden last month, the Southern DHB claimed there were 38 births at the Lumsden Centre, although that number has been contested.

The Southern DHB has received more than 200 submissions on the proposed changes to its maternity care model, which would controversially cease birthing services and postnatal stays at the Lumsden maternity unit.

The submission period for the health board's proposed model of maternity care closed last week.

Southern DHB executive director for strategy, primary and community directorate Lisa Gestro said the health board was reading and evaluating all input and questions received. 

She said the DHB expected to be able to release an updated plan by the end of May. In the meantime, the Southern DHB says it will continue to take bookings for the centre until a final decision is made.

"I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to read the proposal and to provide us with their feedback," she said.

On Tuesday (April 10), Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker also handed over his petition of more than 5100 signatures in support of the centre to Health Minister Dr David Clark. 

“Rural mums deserve much better and I hope the Health Minister listens to their concerns as a result of my petition,” he said.

As the DHB sorts through the submissions, the future of Lumsden Maternity may revolve around how the Southern DHB's requirements from the Ministry of Health are interpreted.

In its agreement with the Ministry of Health, the DHB is required to provide a primary birthing unit in a catchment that both sees 100 pregnancies in a year and is more than an hour away from a hospital.

However the catchment boundaries in question, and how many pregnancies occur within it, are being debated between the DHB and the trust that operates the Lumsden centre.

Thus far the DHB has provided birthing numbers, not pregnancies, in its case to show low demand of the unit. According to the DHB, there were 38 births at Lumsden last year, although that number has also been contested by the Northern Southland Health Company.

Mrs Gestro said reviewing birth and pregnancy numbers, as well as catchments boundaries, would be a part of the health board's review process.

The health company's own submission to the DHB provided different data it claims show the centre is meeting the pregnancy and catchment requirement.

Northern Southland Health Company chairwoman Carrie Adams said the company and the DHB had made a step forward, agreeing that the antenatal blood tests a woman took to confirm a pregnancy were the most reliable source of information regarding pregnancy numbers in the area.

The health company's submission said there were 104 pregnancies determined by the blood test last year across Athol, Balfour, Garston, Lumsden, Manapouri, Mossburn, and Te Anau.

There were an additional 23 pregnancies if Riversdale, Waikaia, Kingston, and Dipton were included in the catchment area.

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