Serving the women of the Buller District has been an absolute privilege, but it's time to move on, says Kawatiri Birthing Unit manager Correen Haslett.

Mrs Haslett and her husband Alan -- the Haslett Partnership -- reopened Kawatiri in March last year after the West Coast District Health Board closed the unit in June 2013 amid safety concerns.

Since reopening, 37 women have given birth at Kawatiri and a growing proportion of Buller women are choosing to birth there.

Mr and Mrs Haslett, who moved from Christchurch, were chosen to reopen Kawatiri because they had the confidence and experience to get a practice going. It was always intended that local midwife Mieke Siebelink would take over after 17 months, Mrs Haslett said.


"I only ever came to bridge the gap, to help Mieke into this position." Mrs Siebelink, who currently practices as a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) contracted by the Ministry of Health, will take over as Kawatiri manager on Monday.

Her daughter, Clarissa, will take over Mr Haslett's administrative role.

The Hasletts weren't saying goodbye to Buller altogether.

Mrs Haslett would return as a locum until another full-time midwife was found.

While sad to be leaving the role, she said she'd fulfilled everything she set out to, so was extremely satisfied.

"It's been a great success ... a privilege to be part of.

"We've been very fortunate to have the support of the community." Buller women were amazing, and so open to having natural, local births, she said.

"We've transferred a few [to Greymouth], not many." They had also impressed her with their dedication to post-natal care.

"I'm doing my standards review report, and I was able to write 'we have a 100 per cent breast feeding rate'. Where does that happen in the world?" Mrs Haslett wasn't sure what she and her husband would do next. "We don't have another job lined up, we need to sort out our earthquake-damaged home in Christchurch." Building on a strong foundation Mrs Siebelink has 10 years' experience birthing in the Buller.

"I started as a doula. Then I became hospital aide for the maternity ward Kawatiri. Then I became a midwife." She looked forward to carrying on the good work Mr and Mrs Haslett had started.

"I think that I'm quite privileged to build on the foundation that Correen and Allan have put up." The increasing number of bookings was a sign women's confidence in the service had grown -- it was important to continue to grow that confidence, Mrs Siebelink said.

In addition to Mrs Siebelink and Mrs Haslett returning as a locum, Buller women also had a full time LMC and another locum at their service. Ruth Davison from Hokitika was recently employed to take over from Mrs Siebelink as the LMC, and Silke Powell would continue working as a locum.

Mrs Davison brought with her a birthing pool (pictured), which has already been used to successfully birth a Buller baby.

Numbers speak for themselves A growing number of women are choosing to give birth at Kawatiri as opposed to Grey Base Hospital.

Bookings were increasing, with a whopping 13 women scheduled to give birth there in December.

The current average for the month is seven bookings.

Mr Haslett, who keeps a keen eye on the numbers, said around 30 per cent of pregnant Buller women gave birth at Kawatiri last year (26 births).

In 2012, there were 22 births and in 2011, 16.

"We are pleased that an increasing number of women are choosing to birth here, particularly in this time when the local population has decreased," Mr Haslett said.

Based on the number of women registering for care, he believed that about 85 women from Buller were giving birth each year.

"During the last year, the birth rate for the district has varied between 2 and 14/month, which has been a challenge for the facility and LMCs." A total of 59 women have had a postnatal stay at Kawatiri since it reopened, he said.

- Westport News