Invaluable service at risk in Cambridge 

Waikato Family Centre nurse Kate Allen holding the baby, with centre office manager Raewyn McKenzie and nurse manager Jo Coulter, right.

A free service offering professional help to parents needing support with their babies and toddlers may have to close in Cambridge if more people don’t use it.

The Hamilton-based Waikato Family Centre provides a free medically-based service to support mothers and families/whānau in the community and greater Waikato who may be struggling with babies aged from birth to two years old.

The service started here last year as part of an extension programme provided through the centre.   It is held weekly at the Cambridge Community Health Centre in Taylor St, but nurse manager Jo Coulter said last week that Cambridge numbers had dropped off to a point where the future of the consultation service in the town was at risk.

“We pay rent to cover our attendance in Cambridge and cover the cost of a registered nurse spending the day there.  When we don’t get the numbers to support those costs, we have no choice but to consider its future.

The service in Cambridge was a pilot, and was well supported initially, but Covid has affected the numbers.”

She said many parents are missing out on essential care that is freely available to them.

The service is seen as a ‘lifeline’ for families, many who have little support from other sources as they navigate the difficulties of early parenthood.   During 2021, Waikato Family Health cared for 740 new families with 4000 free presentations. Families come from as far afield as Tokoroa, Huntly, Coromandel and Tauranga.

Most spend the day at the centre’s base in Hamilton or source help via a one-on-one consultation with a registered nurse covering a range of concerns from birth to age two, including feeding and sleep problems, low weight gain, adjustment to motherhood, issues related to returning to work, toddler behaviour, reflux and more.

Waikato Family Centre has offered the programme for some time. It also has ‘pop-up’ services available around the region and offers phone consultations to those in rural areas.  Referrals come through GPs,

Kirikiriroa Family Services Trust, Mothercraft, Plunket, midwives and self-referral. They also hold courses for those experiencing perinatal mental health concerns, and run Dads’ Evenings, Young Parent Information Evenings, and women’s wellness sessions with health professionals.

“We know there are parents/whānau who either don’t know about the Cambridge service, or haven’t taken the opportunity to use it yet,” she said.  “Without their support, we may have to relocate that service, and that would be a loss for families in the area.”

Consultations must be booked ahead via help@waikatofamilycentre.co.nz, or 07 834 2036.

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