WDHB board approves next step around Regional Women's Health Services proposal

The Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) has given its approval for the Regional Women’s Health Services proposal relating to the future of Wanganui’s maternity and gynaecological specialist services to move to the public engagement phase.
At its meeting today, the board agreed that management can begin formal public engagement and staff consultation. Other resolutions passed included:
  • That the board oversee a public submission process on the Regional Women’s Health Services proposal via oral and written submissions, with the board collectively hearing submitters at a determined date and venue.
  • That additional papers presented to the board at this meeting be included in the proposal that is published for the public submission process.
  • That the outcome of the public engagement and the staff consultation will be provided to the board, alongside a proposed service plan and implementation plan at the May board meeting.
  • That the board acknowledge the successes of the board’s recruitment of hospital specialists to date.
  • That the board agrees to support a focused and dedicated collaborative community recruitment effort.
  • That the board agrees to establish a subcommittee of the board to immediately convene a representative community group to help facilitate the recruitment and retention effort of O&G specialists, with the aim of maintaining secondary O&G services at Wanganui Hospital, including involvement in further exploration of all other options.
  • That the board confirms that the existing maternity policy for a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service delivered on the Wanganui Hospital site remains in place unless a change is made following the submission process or in the event of insufficient O&G staffing to operate the service safely.
At its last meeting two weeks ago, the board had requested additional information including:
  • formal additional risk and safety assessment analysis
  • a broad socio-economic assessment related to the effect on the community (using data available from Wanganui District Council, Whanganui District Health Board and primary health organisations).
  • elaboration on the patient journey for those required to travel
  • additional information on short and long-term recruitment options including the potential for a community collaborative effort
  • investigation of travel allowance equities
  • an independent peer review of the amended proposal being undertaken.
This information was provided for further consideration at today’s meeting.
Despite having good lead maternity carer (LMC) services available to the women of their districts, the WDHB and MidCentral DHBs have struggled to recruit permanent obstetricians and gynaecologists (O&Gs) over the past decade.
Management and clinical staff say the proposal is driven by patient safety and the need for sustainable services for women and their babies, well into the future.
The new service model developed by both DHBs centres on specialist care, especially unplanned specialist care, being provided from Palmerston North Hospital.
It is proposed that lead maternity carer services and some planned specialist services will continue to be provided from local birthing centres in Whanganui, Taihape, Raetihi, Dannevirke, and Levin. Outpatient and elective surgical services will continue to be provided at Wanganui Hospital.

The board is expected to make its final decision on the Regional Women’s Health Service proposal on 25 May. At this same meeting the board will receive a revised proposal which includes the outcome of the public engagement and staff consultation, alongside a proposed service plan and implementation plan.