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A midwife reflects on her Cyclone Gabrielle locum posting

We met with Cara Baddington, a Wellington-based Senior Lecturer at the School of Midwifery, Otago Polytechnic, to hear about her experience responding to the need for locum support in Hastings, post-Cyclone Gabrielle.

Her story shares with us the community’s resilience and the power of collaboration in times of crisis.


A Call to Contribute

Knowing that there was a need for health professional support, Cara said: “I was looking for ways to contribute to the community post-disaster. My husband Luke was working with Hauora Taiwhenua NZ Locums getting doctors and nurses into impacted areas, and I also had a close friend who was deployed up there with NZDF. Although I was busy in my own life, I knew that I could support the response when others couldn’t. I was also very fortunate that Otago Polytech were really supportive of my request to go when the opportunity arose,” reflects Cara Baddington.


A Tale of Two Worlds

In the heart of Hastings, Cara saw the peculiar juxtaposition we often see in disaster-affected areas. “To the naked eye, it looked very ‘normal’, however, a short walk or drive and the devastation became quickly apparent. Vehicles flood destroyed and houses sitting like islands in a sea of mud. The orchards gave some idea of the height of the flood water with debris and mud coating the trees to well over head height. I found the spray paint messages by the search and rescue people sprayed on the destroyed houses extremely poignant.”

People were extremely impacted. Cara notes working alongside midwives who had lost their homes, vehicles, and belongings.

“Everyone had a story, and many of them started with ‘I wasn’t really impacted…’ and then went on to tell of being unable to get home and working many hours at the hospital, or caring for small children with no water, power, and dwindling food supplies.”

Yet amidst all the devastation, Cara witnessed the remarkable camaraderie that emerged. These same people kept turning up for their colleagues and the families they care for. The power of community was evident in the collective efforts to clean up properties and offer support to those in need.


Birth in the Midst of Chaos

In the face of chaos, life persisted. “Babies just keep being born even in a natural disaster!” Cara exclaims. By the time Cara arrived, improved road access meant midwifery staff were able to move freely again. However, travel delays significantly impacted midwives trying to move around the community.

“Because the roads between Napier and Hastings were closed there was a real issue of people movement. Some core midwives were unable to get to Hastings for their shifts. Some LMC midwives got stuck at the hospital and couldn’t provide care to their clients in other areas. Midwives who were stuck in the hospital just kept working. Some Napier midwives set up a triage centre where they could provide some care and work out who needed to be choppered to Hastings for hospital care.” The dedication of all the midwives shone through, with professionals finding innovative ways to provide care and support to birthing families.

She tells how each of the families that came into the hospital was working through their own cyclone-related stress, as well as the excitement of bringing a new human into the world. “Their pragmatism and welcome were extremely heartening too.”


Purposeful Work

Reflecting on her time in Hastings, Cara’s words resonate with profound fulfilment, “A few months on, I’m so glad that I went!”

With the midwifery workforce currently around 40% understaffed, Cara saw firsthand how the limited slack for dealing with massive upheaval, such as a cyclone event, affects the health workforce. She was glad to be able to help contribute some breathing space for the Hawkes Bay maternity midwives.

“I think that community is just amazing! The sense of camaraderie within the community was great. There were lots of community efforts to help clean up properties and I was able to do a bit of volunteering on my days off at the local racecourse which had been set up by HUHA as a big animal shelter.”


A Calling to Aspiring Midwives

To those aspiring midwives, Cara says, “Midwifery is a really meaningful profession to be a part of! Midwives work incredibly hard to provide care that is right for each individual whānau.” 

She champions the significance of the profession and encourages those considering it to embrace locum opportunities as a chance to make an impactful contribution during times of crisis and provide an opportunity for personal development and learning.

Cara Baddington’s journey as a locum midwife is a reflection of the strength of communities, the power of collaboration, and the profound impact that healthcare professionals can have in times of need. Her story serves as an inspiration for those considering a career in midwifery or any healthcare field, emphasizing the significance of their role in times of both calm and crisis.

As well as her lecturing role, Cara is a locum midwife through the NZ College of Midwives (NZCOM), has a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) caseload of her own, and also mentors newly graduated midwives. 


For more information on our Rural Midwives and Maternity Chapter, click here: Rural Midwife Network | Rural Midwifery