Hope grows for new birthing unit

By Michele McPherson

Expecting parents in the Western Bay could be one step closer to having a birthing unit on their doorstep as Bay of Plenty District Health Board prepares to meet with private provider Birthcare.

In September last year Tauranga woman Rachel Werahiko started a Facebook campaign rallying support to 'Bring Birthcare to Tauranga'.

Around the same time general manager of Birthcare Auckland and Huntly Ann Hanson told the Bay of Plenty Times the organisation had twice approached Bay of Plenty DHB with a proposal. During previous discussions via email, Mrs Hanson said the funding the Bay of Plenty DHB was prepared to provide for a Birthcare unit in Tauranga was not enough to offer a quality 48-hour post-natal stay to mothers.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Birthcare, which has centres in Parnell and Huntly, caters for normal birthing and all postnatal stays with its standard rooms fully funded by Auckland District Health Board. However, Mrs Hanson and Birthcare managing director Roy Young now plan to meet with the Bay of Plenty DHB's general manager planning and funding Helen Mason in March to discuss primary birthing options for Tauranga. "We haven't met with them face to face so this is pretty positive.

We could be having a good outcome for the women of the Bay of Plenty," Mr Young said.

He said Birthcare needed to work in collaboration with the health board to provide the service in the Western Bay and warned "these things don't sort of happen overnight".

MP for Tauranga Simon Bridges, whose wife Natalie is due to give birth to the couple's first child in March, said Mrs Hanson had been keeping him up to date and he was "very happy" progress had been made.

"Whilst I'm sad that there's little chance it will be in time for my first (child), it might be in time for my second."

Mr Bridges said family members had stayed at Birthcare in Auckland. "They've got a very wonderful reputation so I think it would be really good to have them in the Bay."

Minister of Health Tony Ryall said the Government was supportive of the birthing centre model.

Tauranga Hospital's maternity, which opened in June 2008, boasts 21 post-natal beds, two ante-natal beds and seven birthing rooms. However one obstetrician previously told the Bay of Plenty Times that he was doubtful it would meet the city's needs in five years.

Dr Matthias Seidel said in September last year that the unit was already reaching capacity at times and he would support a primary care birthing unit in the city to help take the pressure off.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board midwifery leader Marg Norris responded at the time saying that there had been at least three occasions over the past 18 months when new mothers had to be moved into the nearby gynaecology ward due to a lack of space. The birth rate in Tauranga rose from 1327 births in 2000 to 1635 in 2007.

In 2010 there were 2163 births.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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