04 July 2008

Publicity about the death of a baby during labour in Wellington is decreasing public confidence in the quality of maternity care in New Zealand, says the New Zealand Medical Association.

"The death of this baby is extremely unfortunate but we need to resist apportioning blame before the circumstances are fully investigated," said NZMA maternity spokesman Dr Mark Peterson. "There is no evidence of widespread failure in the quality of maternity care in New Zealand, whether provided by midwives, GP obstetricians or specialists".

Sometimes even with the best of obstetric care unexpected events can occur. "Medical and midwifery professions need to ensure that the professionals involved in maternity care are appropriately trained, and that systems are in place to provide back-up where needed in these emergencies," says Dr Peterson.

Where adverse events occur there are a number of review processes that should take place. All maternity units have perinatal mortality review committees and District Health Board have Sentinel Events registers. In this latest case the Minister of Health has also called for an external review. Until these processes are completed we should avoid further comment on this current event.

The NZMA is working collaboratively with the NZ College of Midwives to ensure that New Zealand's women have safe maternity services.

"Quality maternity care requires collaboration of midwives/DHBs/general practice and obstetric specialists to ensure that our mothers-to-be receive the safe services that they deserve in a modern health system. Services delivered independently can have a tendency to undermine such aspirations.

"Primary maternity services, in particular, need to more closely integrated within the Primary Health Organisation framework, so that mothers and their babies can receive the much desired seamless care from both midwives and doctors that is essential to high quality outcomes," Dr Peterson concluded.