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Rural Maternity Services Deteriorating

12 September 2006

Rural Maternity Services Deteriorating

The Minister of Health should be acutely embarrassed at the deficiencies in our rural maternity services publicly revealed by the New Zealand Medical Association, says New Zealand First’s health spokesperson Barbara Stewart.

“Rural New Zealanders sometimes get less than a fair go with access to health services such as elective surgery and after hours care but it now appears that even something as basic as giving birth can be riskier in the country.

“Shortages of specialists in the provinces and the loss of GPs from obstetric care mean that the knowledge and experience required to provide full maternity services to rural communities are often no longer available.

“The result is that expectant mothers are having to travel to larger centres to give birth. The example given of Queenstown, which in 1990 had over 100 deliveries and in 2003, with a bigger population, had only 31, clearly illustrates the problem.

Wanganui, Greymouth, Invercargill, Masterton and Gisborne are all mentioned as provincial centres unable to provide optimal care.

“The NZMA suggests encouraging doctors to undertake training in primary maternity care as has been done in first world countries such as Canada and Australia with similar problems to ours.

“Concerns about the standard of maternity care have been public knowledge for some time and none of this can be news to the Minister. It is time to stop sheltering behind endless committees and working parties at the Ministry of Health and come up with some solutions,” said Mrs Stewart.


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