A regionalised women's health service has moved a step closer with the release of the development plan to be considered by the Whanganui and MidCentral district health boards.
Both boards decided in June to set up the regional service, a decision that created heated debate at board and community level in Wanganui.
Under the original plan, there was a prospect of up to half Wanganui's birthing mothers being transferred to Palmerston North for their deliveries because Wanganui Hospital was battling to maintain a full roster of obstetric and gynaecological specialists.
That plan raised hackles in the Wanganui community and that depth of feeling was starkly displayed when the proposal went out for public consultation.
Finally in late June, the WDHB unanimously voted that it would be maintaining a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week maternity services.
Now, as a follow-on from that, the boards asked a development plan be created, showing how the services would operate and the steps needed to put it into place.
Both boards will consider it at meetings before the end of the year.
The plan has two phases. The first looks to bring together the two existing services as one under a single management, leadership and clinical governance structure. The second phase focuses on continuous quality improvement.
It will mean policies and procedures will be brought into line so services work seamlessly across both boards.
A WDHB spokesman said that from a woman's perspective accessing the service across the region, initially there would be little change to present systems.
MidCentral Health will be contracted to provide the regional service with staff continuing to be employed by their respective DHB, with the exception of leadership positions.
But the plan will see new positions created, including a new gynaecology clinical nurse specialist, other resources to cover the service's expanded coverage and a 12-month fixed term position for a "change manager" to manage the transition.
Governance issues around the plan will be set up as soon as the boards sign off on it, and the leadership and change management support in place by June 30.