Clinic facilities

No more dangerous impulses, the Wānaka childbirth clinic will open next year

Wanaka mum Kristi James with her husband Michael Coonrod and baby Makail James after a stressful and dangerous delivery in 2020.

Provided

Wanaka mum Kristi James with her husband Michael Coonrod and baby Makail James after a stressful and dangerous delivery in 2020.

After years with no options close to home, expectant moms in Wānaka will have a birthing unit next year.

Te Whatu Ora Southern, formerly the Southland District Health Board, has purchased property to house a primary birthing unit in Wānaka, which will have one delivery room and three postnatal living rooms.

The news comes after years of lobbying by mothers, due to dangerous and risky birth stories of local women giving birth on the side of the road, last-minute helicopter rides to Dunedin hospital and d another born on the floor of a midwife’s office.

In 2019, Hawea Flat mother Kristi James gave birth on the floor of her midwife’s Wānaka office, after waking up at 3 a.m. with contractions three minutes apart.

“[The midwife] said, ‘you’re not going anywhere. You will give birth here in the office”. It scared me,” James said.

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At the time, James lamented the lack of an adequate maternity ward near his home.

“We are putting women and babies in incredible danger for no reason. All we need is a primary birthing unit that has all the necessary equipment for any kind of complications.”

Saskia Hulsbosch and her fiancé Daniel Hopper, from Hawea near Wanaka, were forced to park in a picnic area on the gorge between Cromwell and Alexandra in freezing temperatures.

Jo McKenzie-McLean/Stuff

Saskia Hulsbosch and her fiancé Daniel Hopper, from Hawea near Wanaka, were forced to park in a picnic area on the gorge between Cromwell and Alexandra in freezing temperatures.

In 2020, first-time mother Saskia Hulsbosch gave birth at a roadside picnic stop between Cromwell and Alexandra.

Saskia and her fiancé Daniel had made the hour-long journey to the Charlotte Jean maternity ward in Alexandra, followed by their midwife.

“It’s such a crazy way to deliver a baby.

“Dan was a bit in shock. It was pretty bad for the baby. We had to watch him for the next 24 hours because he was born in the cold.

A primary birth unit in Wānaka would have “100%” made a difference, Saskia said.

Hannah Gentile, acting service manager for the new Te Whatu Ora Southern, says the unit will help the community of mothers near Wānaka.

“This beautiful birthing home is in a well-established property and will allow for more home-like care in a welcoming and comfortable environment.”

About 180 to 200 women in Wānaka receive care through local maternities. Te Whatu Ora Southern expects about half of these pregnant women to choose to give birth in the new unit.

He did not specify the exact location of the unit, but said it would work alongside the existing maternity unit in Alexandra and the Queenstown maternity unit at the Lakes District Hospital .

Dunstan Hospital in Clyde will welcome a new maternity hospital in early 2024, replacing that of Alexandra.

Jo McKenzie-McLean/Stuff

Dunstan Hospital in Clyde will welcome a new maternity hospital in early 2024, replacing that of Alexandra.

The Wānaka Clinic is part of a larger project which will also see Alexandra’s Charlotte Jean Maternity Hospital move to a brand new purpose-built facility in Clyde, alongside Dunstan Hospital, planned for early 2024 .

A $7 million financial boost for Otago Maternity Services from the Department of Health is funding both the Clyde and Wanaka Primary Birthing Units.

Morgan Weathington, coordinator of the Wanaka Maternal and Child Hub, said it was cause for celebration for mothers and midwives, after years of advocating for better facilities.

Te Whatu Ora Southern will be undertaking some minor building changes and is expected to open the birthing unit early next year.