Wednesday 30 October 2019: Birthing Centre in Lower Hutt and Māngere is being forced to close over the busy Christmas period because local District Health Boards have refused to engage over delivering the maternity care to which mothers are entitled.

Nga Hau Māngere Birthing Centre, located within the Counties Manukau DHB region, and the Te Awakairangi Birthing Centre, located within the Hutt Valley and Capital and Coast DHB regions, are closing their doors from 20 December 2019 to 6 January 2020.

The DHBs’ lack of responsibility and engagement comes as maternity wards in the hospitals of Middlemore and Hutt Valley are overwhelmed and a midwife shortage has been declared.

Maternal suicide rates in New Zealand are seven times higher per capita than in the United Kingdom, with Māori over-represented. Ongoing mental health issues for both mother and child after postnatal stress are clearly connected.

But Counties Manukau, Hutt Valley, and Capital and Coast DHBs are refusing to engage in useful conversations with Birthing Centre to solve the issues.

Director of Birthing Centre, CEO of Wright Family Foundation and Founder of the Mothers Matter campaign, Chloe Wright, says the Mothers Matter campaign was started to combat the intergenerational health and wellbeing failures being created by the neglect of mothers after they have birthed.

“It’s putting pressure on the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards to simply recognise the legal rights of mothers to birth and receive postnatal care at the place of their choice,” says Chloe.

“Associate Minister for Health Julie Anne Genter needs to get her head out of the sand and take action to put a stop to the neglect of new mothers and their babies in this country. She doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge there is a serious issue and that there are instant solutions on the doorstep.”

Birthing Centre has built facilities in areas such as Lower Hutt and Māngere where there is a high need for equity of maternity and birth care and to show that excellent, wraparound postnatal support can be provided in New Zealand.

Since their opening within the last two years, the Wright Family Foundation has supported the centres in Lower Hutt and Māngere, without recompense, to the tune of $2.5M in operating costs. This was done as an interim measure to demonstrate how a partnership of primary care is the solution to the escalating maternity care crisis that is sweeping New Zealand.

“The Birthing Centre organisation is built on an unwavering set of values that women deserve and need to be nurtured and cared for during the vulnerable time of childbirth and the postnatal period in their lives,” says Chloe.

“This in turn gives the best start to both mother and child to bond and set pathways for ongoing care.”

“These are all elements of care for mothers that DHBs are already funded to provide, but they do not seem to recognise or deliver them, which is shameful,” says Chloe.

“We trust that over the traditionally busy Christmas period, mothers who want the 48 hours postnatal care to which they have a current right is offered and provided.

“We sincerely regret the disappointment there will be from LMCs and their mothers who are showing that they want to birth and receive postnatal care at these two birthing centres. These communities are crying out for these sorts of facilities.

“But we have been left no choice until the DHBs are willing to recognise the primary birthing centres in these regions are the solution to their maternity care problems.”

Mothers Matter representative, Dame Lesley Max, says since November last year the campaign group has been asking for DHBs to recognise primary birthing facilities around the country as a solution to the escalating maternity care crisis facing New Zealand.

“We have been calling for mothers to receive the care to which they are entitled, along with a recognition of the mother to choose where she births and receives postnatal care. Primary birthing centres need to be utilised to solve the well-publicised pressure on maternity services in New Zealand.

“This would allow hospitals to deal with the mothers who need medical attention, allow the delivery of every mother’s right to 48 hours postnatal care, and allow midwives better space and conditions to get on with the job they set out to do.

“The damaging effects of the current treatment of mothers where they often find themselves pushed out of hospital can be long-lasting.

“Mothers and babies are being denied the vital 48 hours after birth to bond and heal, known as the ‘window of opportunity’. We simply need to understand that care for mothers today will contribute to well children tomorrow.”