A Wanaka mum had to be flown to Dunedin Hospital without her baby hours after an early home birth highlighting ongoing maternity facility issues in the region.
Cherin and Chris Spencer-Bower's first child, Indy, came earlier than expected in the early hours of last Wednesday, ruling out a planned drive to the Charlotte Jean Maternity Hospital in Alexandra.
Spencer-Bower said yesterday she had no choice but to give birth at home, Indy arriving too early for the road trip.
After the birth, Spencer-Bower was bleeding enough to cause concern and her midwife called for the rescue helicopter to take her to Dunedin Hospital.
But she couldn't take her baby on the helicopter, and father Chris had to drive Indy - age three hours - to Dunedin.
"I was stable, but had lost nearly two litres of blood and no one had really checked my newborn," Spencer-Bower said.
"She seemed OK, but my husband was thrown the task of strapping a very new infant into a car seat - the temperature -3C - and driving three and a half hours on windy, frosty roads to Dunedin Hospital while she gurgled and spit up bits of blood from the birth."
Mother and daughter were reunited that afternoon and spent two days in Dunedin Hospital before transferring to the Lakes District Hospital in Queenstown "with an incredibly uncomfortable drive".
After five days, they were able to return home to Wanaka, completing a 617km round trip.
"There must be a better way," Spencer-Bower said.
"Ours is one of many stories arising [out] of the birthing crisis in Central Otago.
"We are a part of a baby boom and know of 26 other mothers in Wanaka due to give birth in June alone.''
Spencer-Bower said she knew of another Wanaka woman who gave birth at Clyde, on the way to Alexandra.
Wanaka mum Kristi James, who had been campaigning for improved maternity services, had intended to make it to Dunedin Hospital, but instead gave birth four days early last Thursday on the floor of her midwife's office in Wanaka.
"Lucky is the word that applies to quite a few women who end up having these quick births in Wanaka and on the roadside."
Her first child had been born by caesarean and she believed there was a "fairly good chance" of complications.
Midwife Deb Harvey said there were no facilities in Wanaka to carry out a caesarean.
If the baby had not arrived within in a certain time, the plan was for James to travel an hour to Dunedin by helicopter.
She believed the answer was a hospital in Central Otago "for all types of medical care, not just obstetric care".
Southern District Health Board was setting up a permanent maternal and child hub, but in the meantime had an interim arrangement with the Wanaka Lakes Health Centre which housed both the Wanaka and Aspiring Medical Centres.
Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the "interim" solution, set up late last year, provided a clinic room, where consultations are held, plus access to emergency equipment including a resuscitate and a continuous fetal monitoring device - a CTG - to support a "rapidly progressing birth".
Fleming said the new Gordon Rd facility, due to be ready early next year, would be "better configured for delivering primary maternity care".
It was not feasible to establish a secondary care hospital in Wanaka which would require a roster of four general surgeons, anaesthetists, obstetricians, midwives, plus other services, he said.
"This is why access to secondary care for those living at some distance from these services depends on forward planning between the woman and her midwife, supported by emergency services."