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The Minister must act on epidural stand-off

Dr Jackie Blue MP
National Party
Women's Affairs & Associate Health Spokeswoman

13 December 2006

The Minister must act on epidural stand-off

National's Associate Health spokeswoman Jackie Blue says she is extremely concerned by reports that women in the Nelson-Marlborough region will not have access to epidurals for pain relief in child birth from February next year.

"This situation is completely unacceptable. Pregnant women must have the absolute assurance that epidural services are available for them if they are needed."

Dr Blue says an historical Ministry of Health payment for anaesthetists called in to administer epidurals stopped in July 2006 and it was left up to the DHBs to deal with it.

Some DHBs have already successfully negotiated a deal where the anaesthetist is paid a fee for the service, or there has been an increase in the salary to cover the service.

"However, it appears that negotiations at the Nelson-Marlborough DHB have stalled. Anaesthetists, who have been providing the service for free since July, have now in frustration indicated that they will only administer 'essential' epidurals from February next year where the health of the baby or mother is at risk.

"But under the new arrangement pain relief in childbirth is not considered 'essential'."

Dr Blue says Pete Hodgson should try to help break the deadlock.

"He sat on his hands and stood back as laboratory, radiographer and junior doctors' strikes have crippled our health services. He needs to offer some leadership.

"The situation in Nelson-Marlborough could be repeated at other DHBs still in negotiation."

Dr Blue says the stand-off in Nelson-Marlborough is a symptom of Labour's fragmented approach to health, with a lack of policy consistency across the 21 DHBs.

ENDS

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