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NZMA Seeks Urgent Maternity Meeting

The New Zealand Medical Association is seeking an urgent meeting with Health Minister Wyatt Creech to express our concerns about the Maternity Review, released yesterday, which fails to address serious problems in the maternity system.

"The National Health Committee has done nothing to reverse the exit of general practitioner obstetricians (GPOs) from the maternity system, despite the fact that many women say they want a GPO involved in their care," said NZMA Chairman Dr Pippa MacKay.

"To dismiss the concerns of health professionals as `vested interests' misses the point. General practitioners, for example, cannot be accused of `patch protection' as so few are left in obstetrics that there is hardly a `patch' to protect."

Dr MacKay said the fundamental problem was not, and never had been, one of tension between professional groups.

"The problem is that a competitive system was set up deliver maternity services and no amount of talk about cooperation will improve matters unless the system is fundamentally changed. The NHC missed a good opportunity to take the initiative and make recommendations which would improve this important service for the women of New Zealand."

The high satisfaction levels found in surveys of women are not an indication that all is well with the maternity system, nor does it mean that women got the service they wanted. The surveys were largely self-selected and any women who goes home with a healthy baby (as the vast majority do) is likely to be satisfied with the outcome. The NZMA believes that many of the questions were flawed.

The NHC said GPO numbers had decreased from about 600 to 400 over the last few years, which reflects the number of GPOs registered with Health Benefits Ltd to receive subsidies. The NZMA believes the actual number of GPOs still practising is now approximately 150.


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