Hundreds of people have gathered in Ōpōtiki to march against the Bay of Plenty District Health Board's decision to temporarily suspend the town's maternity services.

The march started at the Ōpōtiki Rose Gardens at noon and will end outside the Ōpōtiki Hospital.

Hundreds have gathered to march in Ōpōtiki. Photo / Supplied
Hundreds have gathered to march in Ōpōtiki. Photo / Supplied

Yesterday those planning to attend the march were at Ōpōtiki High School making banners and placards.

Read more: Backlash after Ōpōtiki birthing unit is temporarily shut down

According to a written statement on the Bay of Plenty District Health Board website, the DHB suspended services at the Ōpōtiki Primary Maternity Unit from December 1 to March 30, 2020, due to inadequate staffing of midwives.

Hundreds have gathered to march in Ōpōtiki. Photo / Supplied
Hundreds have gathered to march in Ōpōtiki. Photo / Supplied

The DHB said the safety of women and babies was paramount in this decision, but "like the rest of the country we are facing a shortage of midwives and that's had an impact on our ability to keep operating safely in this timeframe".

A petition has also been launched to save the unit.