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A Kiwi friend alerted me to the article 'At-risk' women forced to birth at Christchurch Women's Hospital, or at home at Stuff.co.nz, published November 7, 2020.

The article seems to claim that women thought to be at particular risk of being victimized by family violence are diverted to a centralized, secure hospital to give birth, and that overcrowding at this facility works a racial disparity:

New mums deemed at risk of family harm are being sent home within hours of birth at Christchurch Women’s Hospital because primary birthing units won’t take them.

The policy, which restricts women with complex social situations from using the region’s primary birthing units, has been labelled as discriminatory by midwives and Māori advocates.

Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) director of midwifery Norma Campbell said Christchurch Women’s Hospital was the only facility with “adequate staffing and safety” in cases where there were “concerns for a woman’s safety or the protection of her baby”.

The facility, which has 45 beds and cots, is operating at close to full capacity, meaning women who have uncomplicated births most often have to leave within hours after giving birth.

This seems like a fairly plausible scenario of well-meaning policies contributing to systemic racism (as happens frequently in my own country as well), but the following passage from the article gave me some pause:

Several Māori midwives Stuff spoke to said clients who had any involvement with social workers could not birth at a primary birthing unit.

Later on, the author provides a citation that seems to admit that the ban is not as absolute as it seemed:

St George’s hospital manager Carol Ferguson said the community birthing unit accepted some women being supported by social workers, but not all.

What is the reality? Are expectant mothers who have consulted a social worker automatically or presumptively banned from most maternity wards in Christchurch, New Zealand, or is the reality more complex?

  • If there is a policy that specifically covers this (e.g. "It shall be considered malpractice in the second degree for any licensed professional to admit any person for childbirth at a non-secure facility if they have received services from any social worker within the 24 months preceding admission unless a waiver has been obtained therefor from the National Waivers Council of the New Zealand Ministry of Heath on the recommendation of the Prime Minister."), then what exactly is the policy and at what level does it exist? Is it an organizational policy of the entity that manages most maternity centers in Christchurch? Is it set by the city's Ministry of Health? Is it a national law that applies to all of New Zealand?
  • If this is not established in any policy per se, but is practically reflected in common or best practices, has there been a more rigorous study of the extent by which it is actually followed or what percentage of professionals adhere to it?
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    The source you cite says "New mums deemed at risk of family harm" and "women with complex social situations", but your title says "women who have consulted a social worker". Those are very different things. Please edit. – DJClayworth Nov 23 at 14:51
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    @DJ see my second quote. The first part I believe. The second quote seems to claim that the ban actually applies to anyone who has seen a social worker. A caption also claims that the ban is not solely for people at risk of violence. That's what I'm questioning. – Robert Columbia Nov 23 at 14:59

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