An absent obstetrician left Wairarapa Hospital without a secondary care expert for mothers in labour for two 24-hour periods in the last week.
Wairarapa DHB’s communications manager, Anna Cardno, confirmed there was no local obstetric cover from 8am Friday to 8am Saturday last week, and Monday to Tuesday this week.
Another 24-hour gap was due to begin this morning but was resolved by DHB at 3pm yesterday.
The Times-Age alerted to the issue by a concerned resident who suggested the hospital’s obstetrician had taken leave “not to take a holiday and relax” but to undertake a locum cover in another part of the country “for a huge sum of cash”.
Cardno said responsibility for leave approval rested with the DHB’s executive leader of operations, but staff on leave were not required to disclose their activity.
“Detailed processes were in place with lead maternity carers to escalate women to Hutt Valley DHB as necessary,” Cardno said, of the earlier absences, adding that originally gaps in the roster were filled with a doctor from outside the region.
“A locum obstetrician was booked to cover this period but, disappointingly, withdrew at short notice leaving the service without cover,” she said.
Midwifery advisor at the New Zealand College of Midwives, Lesley Dixon, said having no local obstetrician on hand created challenges for new-borns and mothers at the hospital.
“Midwives and obstetricians work collaboratively, with obstetricians consulted if the woman develops complications during birth.
“This is concerning for midwives because if a woman develops or requires obstetric care she will need to transfer during labour to another facility.”
One woman was transferred out of Wairarapa Hospital to Wellington during a gap in obstetric cover, but Cardno said the matter was unrelated to the roster issues.