The number of babies being born at Lumsden Maternity remains steady but the future of the facility is uncertain.
The funding the northern Southland facility receives from the Southern District Health Board has been frozen since 2011 and four of the volunteer directors of the Northern Southland Health Company, the charity that operates the facility, are stepping down in June.
The five-bed facility is a Primary Birthing Facility, providing birthing and postnatal care facilities to women in the Lumsden and Te Anau areas.
NSHC chairwoman Carrie Adams said increased costs because of wages, auditing and compliance costs and inflation meant the amount the company receives to run the facility was “not sustainable”.
The resignations of the board members meant there would not be enough directors to run the facility under the current model.
Figures provided from the board show there have been 111 births at Lumsden Maternity since 2013, and total stays of 297 – which includes births and postnatal stays.
The company’s contract with the board expires on on July 31, after being rolled over three times.
Adams said the last roll-over was on the basis that a Primary Maternity Services Project, being undertaken by the board, would need to be finalised before any changes to funding could be discussed.
The report was due to be finalised in November 2016, but is yet to be completed.
“With or without this report, company directors are at a point when difficult decisions need to be made about the future of Lumsden Maternity, due to a lack of funding,” Adams said.
Board funder support and intelligence, planning and funding senior manager Glenn Symon said the board is committed to ensuring all women in the district have equitable access to maternity services and that the service is provided in the safest and most effective manner possible.
“There are a variety of options for how this is best achieved, and our primary maternity services project is seeking to better understand how to enhance the sustainability, quality and access to this service.
“The report is being finalised and we expect it will be made public in the coming weeks. Southern DHB and Lumsden Maternity Services are in discussions about the best long-term solution for this community.”
Fairfax asked why the centre’s funding had been frozen since 2011, but the board did not comment.
Currently primary birthing rates are about 12 percent for all births in the southern district, which is one of the highest rates of primary birthing in the country.
Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay said he was made aware of the upcoming public meeting last week and requested more information from the board.
“Budgeting is a complex process and the Southern DHB and Lumsden Maternity Services are in discussions about the best outcome for the Lumsden community. I’ll be following the process, including the outcome of the public meeting on May 9, with great interest.”
A public meeting to discuss the future of the facility will be held at the Lumsden Memorial Hall supper rooms on May 9 at 7.30pm.