Combining Whanganui and Palmerston North's maternity services was "half-assed" admits health boss Julie Patterson.

At a Whanganui District Health Board meeting on Friday, member Philippa Baker-Hogan questioned what the board had received for the $230,000 spent on the regional maternity service, set up in 2013 in response to uncertainty around obstetric cover at Whanganui Hospital.

"A lot of effort and time was spent on this service, and now we're moving away from that. What did we get for $230,000?" Ms Baker-Hogan asked.

Ms Patterson said it had been an "insurance policy".


"However, during that time we have been fully staffed and have never had to call on the back-up from MidCentral. The money was spent on the leadership and management structure for the service."

Ms Patterson said in hindsight the service had been "half-assed".

"We hadn't anticipated that trying to blend the two different leadership structures [Whanganui and MidCentral] was not easy."

In the future, the Whanganui board is likely to continue to use Palmerston North-based MidCentral District Health Board's maternity services as a back-up under a proposed memorandum of understanding.

From the beginning of May, WDHB was no longer contributing to the Regional Women's Health Services.

The memorandum was recommended during a review of that service, which highlighted several problems including confusion among MidCentral staff around responsibility and accountability, and "differing philosophical perspectives between clinical leaders" resulting in difficulties at leadership level.

The review of Regional Women's Health Services was prompted by the death of five babies at Palmerston North and serious harm to two other infants, one at Whanganui Hospital.

Ms Patterson said the proposed memorandum would be brought to the next Whanganui board meeting on June 17.