Whanganui and MidCentral DHBs
Wednesday 08 February 2012, 02:47PM
Media release from Whanganui and MidCentral DHBs
The Whanganui and MidCentral District Health Boards (WDHB and
MDHB) will shortly be considering a proposal to make changes to the
Regional Women's Health Service. The proposal, led by the clinical
leaders with management from both DHBs, is driven by ensuring the
safety and quality of services for women and their babies, well
into the future.
While the DHBs have good Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) services
available to the women of their districts, both District Health
Boards have for many years had difficulty in recruiting permanent
obstetricians and gynaecologists (O&Gs). Whanganui has had a
serious staffing crisis that has impacted on services for around a
decade. There has had to be a heavy reliance on high turnover
locums, which risks compromising patient safety.
Clinicians from both DHBs have driven the development of the new
service model which centres on much of the specialist care,
especially that which is unplanned, being provided from Palmerston
North Hospital. The LMC services and some of the planned specialist
services would continue to be provided from local birthing centres
in Wanganui, Taihape, Raetihi, Dannevirke, and Levin.
Regional clinical director obstetrics and gynaecology, Digby Ngan
Kee, regional midwifery advisor Cheryl Benn and Whanganui-based
consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Mark Stegmann say that
while both DHBs continually strive to achieve excellence in women's
health, the critical staffing situation that exists has seen them
struggling to provide the desirable level and quality of
"We have explored many alternatives and, from a clinical
perspective, the proposed change is the only viable option," Dr
Ngan Kee says. "The 'patchwork' staffing arrangement in both
hospitals, and especially Wanganui Hospital, is the result of
difficulties that many New Zealand provincial hospitals are facing
with their recruitment of obstetricians and gynaecologists.
"It's widely recognised that there is a worldwide shortage of
obstetricians and gynaecologists, that smaller provincial hospitals
such as ours are particularly disadvantaged by this, and that the
situation is unlikely to change."
The DHBs are concerned that existing staff cannot continue to work
the level of after hours calls needed to maintain a safe and
sustainable service at both hospitals, 24 hours, seven days a
Dr Stegmann says clinical leaders believe consolidating specialist
care on a single site at Palmerston North Hospital is the best way
forward. "This will ensure we can provide the best service possible
and attract the medical specialists we need to achieve this," Dr
Dr Benn says the plan proposes that Whanganui district women
having a normal pregnancy, labour and birth will continue to have
their babies in their local birthing centres, including Wanganui
Hospital. However, services will be provided from the larger
regional health service at Palmerston North Hospital for those
women who require specialist O&G care, and for those having a
normal pregnancy who arrange it with their LMC.
Board members of both DHBs are being asked to support the proposal
in principle, to allow a public engagement process to take
place. A final decision on the plan will be made once public
feedback has been sought and carefully considered.
Whanganui DHB chief executive Julie Patterson says the clinicians
and managers recognise that the proposed plan will have a
significant impact on the communities, particularly women and their
families/whanau who reside in and around Whanganui.
"We recognise that the proposed change will cause disruption for
those women and their families who need to travel," Mrs Patterson
said. "And the proposed change is also very difficult for the
independent LMCs who may not be able to continue to support their
women in Palmerston North.
"We believe this will directly impact on up to 400 Whanganui women
which is about 50 percent of the Whanganui women who are expected
to give birth each year."
MidCentral DHB chief executive Murray Georgel said: "We are
putting this proposal to our boards and ultimately to our
communities because we believe this is more preferable than
continuing to provide a service for patients that is less than
ideal from a quality and safety point of view.
"All going well, public and staff feedback will then be reported
back to both boards so a final decision can be made in
The proposed plan does not include paediatric and neonatal
More information is available on the Whanganui and MidCentral DHB
websites www.wdhb.org.nz and www.midcentraldhb.govt.nz.
If you wish to submit your feedback in advance of the public
meetings you can do so by emailing email@example.com
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