How far is too far for a pregnant woman to go for help

By Kathryn Powley

How far is too far for a pregnant woman to go for help with the birth?

A Kaitaia midwife says Wanganui residents worried about a 74km journey to Palmerston North Hospital should take heart from the Far North where women travel twice, sometimes three times, that distance for specialist help.

The journey from Kaitaia to Whangarei is 155km, but the trip from Te Kao, near the top of the island, to Whangarei is 221km, making the Wanganui-Palmerston North journey seem like a Sunday drive.

Wanganui women needing obstetric care can still get it at their local hospital, but a staffing crisis means that could change soon. The public has been asked to lodge submissions on the controversial proposal to concentrate all specialist services in Palmerston North. Submissions close on Wednesday.

But Kerri Rewha, a midwife for 12 years in Kaitaia, says there's no need for panic.

"It's not ideal but it's workable." In Kaitaia, she said, the midwives called the shots and when they decided a woman needed a transfer, an ambulance or helicopter was made available.

Kaitaia Hospital stopped offering caesareans in 2002. Now obstetricians visit regularly and women needing a specialist birth care plan to go to Whangarei for the birth, or are taken by helicopter or ambulance.

Opotiki midwife Jane Curley said women from the western East Coast must travel to Whakatane for specialist care. She said midwives in that region were "hot on safety" and didn't hesitate to send women to hospital at the first sign of trouble.

Kaitaia mum-of-two Raewyn Abraham, 21, knows all about making a dash to a far off hospital while giving birth.

On November 20 last year, in "unbearable pain" because baby Rewi was facing the wrong way, she was taken by helicopter from Kaitaia to Whangarei hospital.

"Once I got into the helicopter I took one look around, calmed myself down and closed my eyes," she said.

Baby Rewi needed life-saving oxygen at birth but today was thriving.

Abraham's daughter, Rehutai, was born without incident in Whangarei Hospital three years ago, yet the mother felt Rewi's emergency delivery was the better of the two. "It's not how you get to the hospital, it's when you get to the hospital."

Whanganui District Health Board expects to make a decision on the proposed changes at its May 25 meeting.


- Northern Advocate

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