Ōpōtiki midwife demands accountability over Xmas closure

By Kereama Wright

The lead midwife in Ōpōtiki, Lisa Kelly, wants accountability over the closure of its maternity unit during the Christmas and New Year period.

“Definitely needs to be an inquiry into why it happened and how it happened and DHB need to be held accountable for what they have done.

“Our midwifery manager who manages Tauranga, Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki hospitals. She needs to be held accountable for her actions. She did not consult or communicate with the midwives at all.”

The Ōpōtiki Health Centre, which services mothers’ from Whangaparaoa on the East Cape to Kutarere, west of Ōpōtiki, was re-opened on January 1 after being forced to close by the Bay of Plenty DHB on December 1 due to a shortage in staff numbers.

“They deemed there wasn't enough midwives for the on call. We disagreed," Kelly explains. “Because of our stance and the pressure we applied, with the community, they had no choice but to re-open.”

“Training has been provided for local nurses and St Johns to act as support to midwives and additional locum midwife cover is in place until the end of January as part of an interim arrangement.”

While she is satisfied with the re-opening, Kelly, who’s operated in Ōpōtiki for twenty years, says someone needs to be held responsible for the closure which she believes put lives at risk.

“There was a risk there. We had women that were being escorted by police in their private vehicles coz they were driving at speed to make it to Whakatāne to give birth.”

The Bay of Plenty DHB declined requests to comment today. But in an earlier statement, Pete Chandler, Chief Operating Officer at Bay of Plenty DHB said, “During December, much work was done to ensure we have a safe and supportive model of 24-hour cover for local births.”

Chandler said “Work will need to continue to ensure that we are able to maintain the roster cover after January and at the end of the month we will review the interim arrangements to make sure they are working well for everyone involved.”

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