Otago Polytechnic research has contributed to steps to improve the care available for women giving birth far from a major hospital.

Concerns have been raised about availability of prompt transfers to hospital when required, and the safety of these women and their babies. Midwifery lecturer Jean Patterson has previously researched the experience of rural women who are transferred during labour.

Jean found that Statistics New Zealand had no readily accessible data on the transfer of rural women in labour to hospital, so she obtained permission from all the District Health Boards to access the records of their rural facilities. Her national survey looked at both the rates of transfer of women and the reasons for their transfer. This data was supported by interviews which Jean conducted with midwives and with some of the women who had experienced a transfer during labour.

Jean's research was timely, contributing solid data relevant to the questions being asked simultaneously and anecdotally by others. In response to concerns raised by the New Zealand College of Midwives, the Southern District Health Board has conducted a fact-finding exercise and is currently exploring how to address the issues. 

February 2017