By Christina Tran, Te Rito journalism cadet
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
The Ministry of Health has paused funding on plans to build a dedicated Child, Women and Family complex at Waitākere Hospital.
Its hiatus comes as the ministry chose to hand over funding decisions for a 20-year master plan to expand and improve facilities at the hospital to the upcoming Health New Zealand system.
The new system will dissolve all DHBs in July.
It will also push out any funding decisions until at least 2024 as the transition takes place.
New Zealand College of Midwives adviser Brigid Beehan considers this "an enormous blow to the women and midwives of Waitākere to have these developments stalled".
A midwife who has worked at the hospital for many years says she is sad the funding has been put on the backburner.
"Women's health has never been a priority ... women and their whānau in West Auckland have been making do with an inadequate hospital for decades."
She says the maternity unit's facilities are failing pregnant women.
Birthing rooms are hot, badly designed and cramped making them "difficult to work in and difficult for women to labour in."
The Child, Women and Family complex is only stage one of the master plan.
Thousands of West Aucklanders have signed a petition by Waitākere Health Link urging that plans be approved before June so development can go ahead starting this year.
Proposed developments also include expanding existing buildings such as the emergency department, radiology and theatre as well as adding new facilities like a marae, mental health building and multi-storey carpark.
Waitākere Hospital has the lowest bed-to-population ratio in the country with 1.2 beds per 1000 people in the region.
Waitematā DHB chief medical officer Dr Jonathan Christiansen says that "with existing facilities now at capacity, it is important the improvement to the hospital campus remains an urgent focus".
West Auckland's population is expected to grow by over 80,000 people by 2043.
Waitākere Health Link spokeswoman Linda Cooper says many residents are having to travel all the way to North Shore Hospital to get medical care.
The added travel is inflicting serious hardship on the community as well as increasing pressure on North Shore Hospital.
The midwife says "Hospitals are supposed to be places of healing and for people to feel safe and welcomed, and it's really hard to create that atmosphere when the building is letting you down."