Birthing centre founders hand over baby

Sally Wilson, left, and Sue Wynyard at their 20th anniversary and retirement celebration, wearing their Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit awards they received in the last Queen’s Birthday Honours.

After 20 years of nurture and development, Warkworth midwives Sally Wilson and Sue Wynyard are bidding farewell to their most precious baby – the community birthing centre that they founded and built to serve local mothers and families.

Over the past two decades, almost 2800 babies have been born at the centre and more than 11,600 mums have stayed there to recuperate having given birth elsewhere. Sally and Sue have been on hand throughout.

Now they are stepping down for a well-earned retirement and are handing over the reins of the birthing centre. They couldn’t be happier with the new owners – Nicky Snedden and Donna Hamilton, who are also Warkworth midwives.

“We had two groups in contention, one was more corporate, but we’ve always wished it was midwives running the centre,” Sally says. “We’re just delighted it’s Nicky and Donna as they’re two midwives and they’ll keep the same ethos and philosophy that we have worked for, and hopefully increase the number of natural births here.”

Sally and Sue founded Warkworth Birthing Centre following the closure of the old Warkworth maternity hospital in the mid-1990s. Together with Glen Hoare, they became independent midwives and negotiated with the Government to run a birthing and postnatal care centre for the area. They formed a trust to act as landlord for the centre, with a mandate that it would be owned by the community as a maternity facility in perpetuity.

The Warkworth Birthing Centre opened in View Road in February 2000 with one birthing room and two postnatal beds. Today, there are two birthing rooms, an assessment room, 10 postnatal rooms and 34 staff, including nurse Sara Marshall who has been there since Day One.

Sally and Sue’s retirement, the centre’s 20th anniversary and the handover to Nicky and Donna were all celebrated at a party in the grounds of the maternity unit on Saturday, February 22.

Sally and Sue thanked the local community for all their support over the years, as well as all the women and families who have used the birthing centre, trust members and support agencies. They said that while they would miss being at the centre, they were looking forward to being able to relax and travel, and not being on call 24/7 or caught up in local traffic.