Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean is calling on the Government to urgently improve telemedicine facilities for Central Otago mothers, after the Southern District Health Board admitted more clinics were needed.
“Last month I highlighted the issue that women in Alexandra and Cromwell were being disadvantaged because they could no longer access telemedicine facilities at Wanaka due to overcapacity.
“I have since been in contact with the Southern DHB and they admit that ‘there’s been too much demand for the (Wanaka) clinic.’ ”
“They also tell me that they don’t dispute that there’s a need for more telemedicine clinics in the area and that because the Central Otago population is growing rapidly, there’s increasing pressure on maternity services.
“I have written to Health Minister David Clark highlighting this serious shortfall and calling on him to address the issue by either reinstating access to the Wanaka clinic for Central Otago mums, or by urgently establishing a telemedicine clinic at Alexandra or Cromwell.
“Some of the mothers affected simply cannot afford to pay for private specialist appointments or travel costs to Dunedin.
“At the start of this year midwives were able to refer Alexandra and Cromwell women to the SDHB’s new Wanaka telemedicine clinic, which allowed those needing special support to complete a video conference with a specialist at Queens Mary Hospital, without having to drive to Dunedin.
“But at the end of February the SDHB wrote to midwives and said that because of resource constraints, the clinic was now being limited to Wanaka women only.
“This means Central Otago women now have to make the 440Km round trip to Dunedin, or have a specialist appointment at Dunstan Hospital, which can have a three-month waiting list and usually only has one or two maternity appointments available each month. A private consultation, within two weeks, is also available for a $300 fee.
“As a result many Central Otago women are being denied access to often critical pre-natal advice.
“There are seven midwives working across Central Otago, with increasing caseloads, so I predict this shortfall is only going to get worse.”