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Health Ministry: Maternity Services High Quality

Ministry of Health says maternity services are high quality

The recent tragic cases of babies dying following breech delivery suggests that the care provided in those instances was inadequate. However, information available to the Ministry does not support the view that there is a systemic failure within maternity services.

The Ministry is currently in discussions with the College of Midwives and the New Zealand Medical Association as part of the review of the Section 88 Maternity Notice to consider how we might increase the participation of General Practitioners in the provision of maternity care. There is general agreement that we retain the Lead Maternity Carer approach to the provision of primary maternity services.

Chief Advisor Child and Youth Health, Dr Pat Tuohy says, "A key theme to those discussions will be how to formalize cooperation and collaboration between midwives, GPs and obstetricians.

"Maternity has a place in integrated health care and is strongly linked into other services such as, well child, general practice, sexual and reproductive health and other areas of primary health care."

There have been concerns raised that there has been a decrease in medical input into pregnancy and delivery but this is not reflected in the available figures. Both inductions of delivery and caesarean sections are medical interventions. Caesarean sections in particular are higher than the World Health Organisation recommendations.

Perinatal mortality rates (deaths of babies immediately after birth) show there has been a steady reduction in deaths over the last ten years. All health professionals involved in maternity care believe that fuller information is needed about perinatal outcomes and the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee has been requested by the Minister to report back to him on their analysis of the current situation.

New Zealand parents can be reassured that we have a high quality maternity system which has in place high standards of training, oversight of practice and regulations.

That's backed up by a strong legal framework emphasising competency and safety. The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 protects the health and safety of the public by ensuring that health practitioners are fit and competent to practise and came into effect last year.

The Act provides a consistent framework for all health professionals including midwives and a register of all midwives with practising certificates is maintained by the Midwifery Council. The Council sets and maintains standards for education, registration, discipline and competence of all midwives.

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