An Auckland maternity suite has ditched plans to divert women in labour to a larger hospital because of the number of expectant mums with Covid after an uproar from midwives.
The proposed change was a reaction to the high number of pregnant women arriving at the Waitakere birthing unit to give birth who were also Covid-positive.
Management at the west Auckland unit told midwives using the facility it was considering taking only the most straightforward births so it could manage staff shortages and extra protocols because of Covid.
The maternity suite, which is equipped to perform caesarean and epidurals, would send these births and any others that might require intervention straight to North Shore Hospital, which has a Covid ward.
But this week, after midwives stressed the importance of a local service, management backtracked.
Midwives were concerned not only for expectant mums who would be further from home and family support but also for staff having to travel further.
One midwife said the proposed change meant she would not have been as available for the mums in her care as she was "just one person".
She said midwives were not consulted and it was out of the blue.
The backlash to the proposal led to an emergency meeting and a resolution was reached.
The maternity hospital, not equipped to keep covid positive mums separate, quickly made changes to cater for them.
In a statement to the Herald, a spokeswoman for the Waitemata District Health Board said from today "pregnant women who are Covid-19 positive would be admitted to maternity wards at both North Shore and Waitakere hospitals so that women can be cared for closer to home.
"Discrete areas have been prepared in order to protect other families and staff."
In the statement, it was confirmed the services at the Waitakere maternity until remain unchanged and obstetric and midwifery care would continue.
Staffing was strained due to the effects of Covid-19 on the community and less-critical services had been "down-scaled to provide additional support to ensure that essential services like maternity care can continue".
Jill Ovens of the midwives' union Meras said midwives were relived with the outcome and said they were already under increased pressure without adding a 60km round trip for each delivery.
"For local midwives, it is usually 16km to Waitakere so the 60km to North Shore is a big difference, especially with childcare arrangements. We have midwives who are in a real situation right now."
Ovens said midwifery was already under pressure but Covid had compounded it with staff off sick or isolating and childcare facilities closed or short-staffed.
"We just don't have enough midwives to cope with the situation we have got Auckland-wide.
"It is huge. We have got situations where staff can not take breaks and there is no one there to relieve them."
Ovens was supportive of the new policy that allowed non-symptomatic Covid positive nurses and midwives to work on the Covid ward.
"This helps with staffing shortages but these members need to have the option not to work and if they develop symptoms they need to be able to go straight home."
Ovens said staff working with Covid patients were in full PPE and were supposed to have a break every two hours to rehydrate.
"This often does not happen because there is no one there to take their place."
"This needs to be addressed," she said.