Maternity support programme celebrates milestone with 500th enrolment
As the founding director of Tāmaki Health and executive trustee for Total Healthcare in Ōtara, Ranjna Patel knows all too well the predicament many young mothers face within the community.
“When a girl finds out she’s pregnant, the medical part is 10% of the problem. First of all, [their] parents don’t know. How do [they] navigate that landscape?” Patel asks.
“From past experiences at my Dawson Road clinic, we’ve actually delivered a baby in the backroom with the young woman’s dad sitting in the waiting room because she was too scared to tell him or the family.”
Working with Local Doctors Ōtara and the Total Healthcare Primary Health Organisation, Patel established Maternity Coordination Services for Young Mums, an initiative which offers support to young Māori and Pacific mothers 22 years or younger living in South Auckland.
Once enrolled, mothers are then connected to a wide range of medical and social support available including parenting classes, smoke-free and alcohol-free support and WINZ and housing support.
“South Auckland has so many services, but no one talks to each other and nobody knows of them. So as a young mum, you don’t know where to go,” Patel says.
“What we realised is we didn’t need a medical person; we needed a person that had organisational skills, that could navigate the system, whether it’s finding a house, whether it’s going to WINZ, finding a pepi pod or a car seat – so many different things apart from health.”
Established in January last year, both organisations gathered today at the Ōtara Kai Village to celebrate its 500th enrolment.
Maternity Coordination Services enrolee Leata Purcell says she has received a lot of support through the programme and would encourage other young mums to reach out and get the support they need.
“With my older baby, I didn’t do the programme, but this is my first time to enrol,” Purcell says.
“I received a hamper before I gave birth, stuff for baby, clothes, car seat. I like this programme, I really enjoyed it.”
Addressing the attendees, Associate Minister for Health Hon. Jenny Salesa had high praise for the initiative. “This is the best way forward, ensuring that we help our mothers navigate not only the health service but navigate mental health [services], navigate housing.”
“I thank you for not waiting for the health system to catch up… now that you’ve actually shown over a year and a half that this is the way that the service can work, my expectation is we will catch up.”
Patel says the success of the programme means the team are ready to expand their services within Tāmaki Makaurau.
“With this, we’ve seen the good results that we’ve got that we’re expanding it to Auckland DHB and Waitemata DHB.”
By Alice Lolohea