Mothers Matter is again questioning the competency and understanding of the Government in relation to providing necessary maternity and postnatal care in Lower Hutt after a misguided $9.4m maternity services boost for the area.

Founder of Mothers Matter, Chloe Wright, is speaking out following a Government announcement on Wednesday of a $9.4 million upgrade of the maternity unit at Hutt Hospital.

Chloe Wright says rather than focussing on refurbishments, the emphasis desperately needs to be on providing the support, space and time that both mothers and midwives need – for mothers to safely birth, recover and bond with their baby, and for the midwives to do the job they were trained to do.

“This is a seriously misguided placement of much-needed money. It’s not refurbishments we need, it’s midwives with the time and conditions they need to get on and do the job they love and were trained to do. We also need emphasis on postnatal wraparound care and support, which mothers have a right to but oftentimes being denied.

“The well-publicised crisis around maternity and postnatal care for mothers and babies in the Wellington region could be addressed almost overnight if the area’s DHBs were willing to support women to receive the postnatal care to which they are entitled. The not-for-profit Te Awakairangi Birthing Centre at Melling is a purpose-built primary birthing centre just minutes from the hospital, but it is simply ignored.”

Te Awakairangi Birthing Centre is only 20km from Wellington Hospital and 1.5km from Hutt Hospital.

Along with similar facilities in Mangere, Tauranga and Palmerston North, the Wright Family
Foundation opened the Lower Hutt Te Awakairangi Birthing Centre in 2018 as a social enterprise to inspire the change needed to provide outstanding care of mothers and to show how it can be achieved.

The centres were also intended to provide the New Zealand maternity system with the support is so urgently needs, as well as address equity of maternity care across the country.

The Government’s funding announcement came just a day after Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rose Wall released two reports highlighting “systemic failures” and a “pattern of poor care” at the Hutt Valley DHB maternity services.

One of the reports investigated the care of Ellie Toyoshima who died in July 2016 at Hutt Hospital, six days after she was born after receiving a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation at birth.

Ellie’s mother, Ruth Toyoshima, has criticised the Government’s direction of funds as having “missed the mark”. She said the money should be focussed on staffing gaps and filling training, rather than buildings.

Mothers Matter has repeatedly tried to communicate with both the Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs on maternity care in the region, as well as with Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter, for the past three years. The group is currently waiting for Health Minister David Clark to respond to requests for a meeting.

“Our pleas based on research and fact have fallen on deaf ears. The government and most DHBs refuse to appropriately address the most vital needs of children-a well mother,” says Chloe Wright.

“Currently Te Awakairangi Birthing Centre and its resources – exactly the resources that are needed to ease pressure on the hospital maternity ward – is being totally ignored by the DHBs and Government.

“The DHBs could operate these centres maintaining the philosophy of Birthing Centre, which puts mothers at the centre of society following a universal pattern of traditional cultures. Every life matters.”

At the end of last year, MidCentral DHB and Wright Family Foundation entered into an agreement that will see the DHB managing the Te Papaioea Birthing Centre in Palmerston North.

The first of its kind in New Zealand, the agreement offers mothers, babies and whānau more options for birthing, increased postnatal care and other pregnancy related care, including lactation consultancy and community midwifery services, in a primary setting.

The agreement recognises what research has confirmed for many years: the importance of care in the first 1000 days of life. Vital in this approach is putting mothers at the centre to achieve best outcomes for mother, baby, and whanau.

The venture will enable staff to move between both sites, implementing a flexible workflow to provide cross cover and enable staff opportunities of working in primary and hospital-based maternity settings.

The Mothers Matter campaign was founded by Chloe Wright to make mothers aware of their current right to 48 hours of postnatal care, and to put pressure on the Government to establish a ring-fenced national fund, managed by the Ministry of Health, to support a mother’s right to receive the clinically and psychologically appropriate amount of postnatal care and support at the facility of her choice, regardless of the type of birth she has had.

The Mothers Matter campaign has the vocal backing of birthing, first 1000 days and postnatal experts including Dame Lesley Max. For more information visit www.mothersmatter.nz.

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