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Plunket’s move away from in-home visits ‘heartbreaking’, say mums


A change in the way child health service Plunket provides assistance has left some Taranaki mums feeling lost and abandoned.

Plunket’s website states parents can expect eight core visits with a nurse, either at home, in a Plunket building or mobile clinic, or a marae or church, from when their baby is between four and six weeks old up until their before-school check.

However, due to stretched resources Plunket is now offering alternatives to in-home visits, such as drop-in clinics, for children who are developing well, and targeting its service to support those in most need.

Taranaki mum Nic Briggs said that when her baby, Lennie, was 12 weeks old she was told there would be no further Plunket visits, and if she needed anything she would have to attend one of the drop-in clinics.

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At nearly seven months, Lennie was suffering from reflux and colic, and sometimes inconsolable for up to an hour, and Briggs said the thought of sitting waiting to be seen for a long period of time was not good enough.

“I was pretty gutted.

“For me, as a child, Plunket was a great thing for my parents and I go back and look at my Plunket book. And I can’t go through his. There’s nothing in it. I don’t know if he’s meeting the milestones.”

Nic Briggs is unhappy that her Plunket visits have been switched to a drop-in clinic not long after having her first baby.

SIMON O’CONNOR/Stuff

Nic Briggs is unhappy that her Plunket visits have been switched to a drop-in clinic not long after having her first baby.

Briggs, who was one of nearly 100 women who shared their experiences about Plunket on a Taranaki mothers Facebook page, said she was now going to her GP instead – a sentiment shared by many mums on the post.

In an emailed statement Viv Edwards, Plunket regional operations manager for the Central Region, said life had changed a lot in 30 years and there were now more ways to access Plunket services than before.

“For example, there was no widely used internet then – in the last year our website had more than 1.5 million visits where people can access our information.

“We also offer a 24/7 free Plunketline service so parents and caregivers can talk to a registered nurse any time they have a concern or need extra support.”

Edwards said they would always find ways to help families if they needed more support.

“The Covid-19 situation has not helped, and we’ve also had a big surge in newborns in the region recently, too.”

CHRIS SKELTON/STUFF

Iconic New Zealand organisation Plunket has taken on a commitment to be more responsive to Māori and Pacific whānau.

Emily Robinson is a South Taranaki mother of three and said she had noticed a change in Plunket since having her firstborn five years ago.

With her first, Robinson said Plunket were amazing, with regular visits and checks.

But now with her third child, who has just turned 1, she has not had a Plunket visit since April.

“With my second, we had four different Plunket nurses within a year. They just couldn’t find one to stay in the area.

“With my third we saw one nurse, then another nurse, and then we finally had one who was going to come and do home visits, but the appointments were always scheduled late, or she was late, or she wouldn’t show up.”

Robinson said it was a “huge muck around” when she already had enough going on, including postnatal depression.

“It was devastating. I’ve been a huge advocate for Plunket since my firstborn, but just to be dropped with no communication, it was devastating and made me angry.

“I think they need to give us more communication.”

Robinson said she was grateful for the help she had received with her first child, and said she felt for first-time mums who were not getting that level of support.

“If Plunket weren’t there when I had my firstborn I wouldn’t have known a lot.

“As a first-time mum, if you don’t have support, and Plunket aren’t there, that’s heartbreaking.”



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