Stratford women frustrated by long waiting lists for their 20-week pregnancy scans have been told that sonographers are working overtime to reduce waiting times.

Mothers spoken to by the Stratford Press say they are frustrated with the lack of services in the region, with some opting to travel to other regions for appointments to avoid the long waiting lists of up to seven weeks in Taranaki.

Taranaki District Health Board chief operations officer Gillian Campbell says longer waiting times have been resolved through the rostering of additional weekend sessions and women are now getting scans between 20 and 22 weeks.

She says all pregnant Taranaki women are provided with a routine obstetric ultra sound scan in Taranaki at 20 weeks and although some women are opting to travel to Whanganui for it, the DHB does not refer patients there.

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"It is our understanding that a pregnant woman's decision to go to Whanganui or any other DHB for the 20-week scan is done in consultation with their lead maternity carer."

However, pregnant women wanting a 12-week Nuchal Translucency scan which screens for chromosomal abnormalities must travel to Whanganui, Palmerston North or Hamilton to see private providers.

This scan has never been provided by the health board and currently there is only one local Taranaki obstetrician who can provide the 12-week scan — largely to her own private patients.

Christie Maree Stachurski is currently pregnant with her first child and although her 12-week scan was in New Plymouth, she was sent to Whanganui for her 20-week scan as the wait was four to six weeks to get into New Plymouth.

"The trip wasn't to bad but I had to take the day off work to go. The people down there were very lovely and friendly and offered an extra service of photos of the scan. They also went into detail about what we could see on the screen.

"I think it would be nice if Taranaki had a place especially for maternity scans so then it can cater for all pregnant women, for not everyone is able to travel a few hours for a scan and it would ease some anxiety about scans and wait times if we had a facility dedicated to maternity in Taranaki."

Jamie Jeffreys says she was 27 weeks by the time she got her 20-week scan at the end of March and says she only got it because she called "over and over again".

"My concern was another issue with the baby and not being able to terminate for medical reasons. It was a really stressful time." She has laid a complaint with the health board and is waiting a response.

"There will be women who cannot afford to travel out of district for their scans, putting them and their children at risk and taking the choice to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons away from them."

Jamie says the health board needs to make changes so that women do not feel like a burden on the health system.

Jackie Meyer says she went down to Whanganui for her 20-week scan and the baby had its back turned so she couldn't see the baby's vital organs.

"Now I have to wait four more weeks, finally getting a scan in New Plymouth next week when I will be 25 weeks. Hopefully baby shows us what we need to see."

Natalia Stanley is around 19 weeks pregnant and says she had her 12-week scan in Whanganui. Her next 20-week scan is meant to be New Plymouth but she has been told it will be 24 weeks or longer.

"Apparently Whanganui are having longer wait times from what is happening in Taranaki."
Natalia says a friend of her midwife mentioned her scan would be between 21 and 22 weeks so things must have improved.

Ratapiko mother Krystie Hastie had to travel to Whanganui three times for scans for one of her pregnancies, costing her in fuel as well as the time off work.

"With a complicated pregnancy it was upsetting having to travel that far for a routine scan to check on my baby."

She says for one of her scans, she had to get up at 4am to travel as the appointment was so early.

Gillian says the says longer waiting times for the 20-week scan was due to the on-going issue of a national shortage of sonographers.

"We have been unable to cover sonographer maternity leave despite advertising for a permanent full-time replacement. We have also been advertising internationally for a full-time permanent sonographer to try and fill the vacancy. Unfortunately the on-going issue of a shortage of sonographers nationally is having an impact."

Gillian says the hospital was experiencing higher numbers of acute urgent referrals for both obstetric and non obstetric ultra sounds scans, which put more pressure on the ultra sound scan service.

"Additional efforts are being made to avoid any missed appointments and wasted opportunities. Every person gets a text reminder one to two days before their appointment requesting them to confirm their appointment and if not confirmed, their time is double booked to be more assured either one or both will turn up to the appointment."

Gillian says the health board acknowledged that travelling outside Taranaki for the 12-week scan was inconvenient for pregnant women and their families but it was not an easy fix.

"Nuchal Translucent scanning has always been provided by private providers, not the Taranaki DHB, and at the moment there are not enough providers in Taranaki.

There is a resident senior medical officer at Taranaki DHB who is exploring the possibility of providing this service privately in Taranaki."