05 May 2011

The Government’s announcement that there will be an extra $33 million towards maternity funding, over four years, has been welcomed by the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) which says it will assist in improving the safety and quality of maternity services.

“The NZMA is particularly pleased with the decision to implement standardised referral guidelines nationwide to assist lead maternity carers to make appropriate and timely referrals to other practitioners such as GPs. This will ensure that women can have access to the antenatal care they require,” says NZMA General Practitioner Chair and Maternity spokesperson Dr Mark Peterson.

“While the relationships between maternity providers have been improving, there is still something of a disconnect between midwives and primary care. This goes some way towards rectifying the problem. It is crucial that medical and midwifery services are better coordinated to ensure the best quality care for women and their babies.”

“The NZMA believes that the Section 88 funding for primary maternity care should be restructured and, like other primary care funding, be channeled through PHOs. However, standardised referral guidelines are a positive step.”

The extra spending will also go towards establishing regular local multidisciplinary reviews of maternity services, and providing better information services for new parents on maternity care, childbirth and parenting.

“We strongly support this strengthening of the team approach to maternity care.”

Dr Peterson says the NZMA also supports that some of this extra funding will go towards ensuring maternity data is collected by all DHBs and collated nationally.

“This will ensure that we have more comprehensive information on the care provided to mothers and their babies. We have advocated for this for a long time. It will help our health services to identify problems and evaluate where improvements can be made to maternity care so that all children have the opportunity for the best start in life, which in turn leads to better health outcomes throughout one’s life.”

The NZMA recently released a position statement on achieving health equity and highlighted the importance of a child focused approach in tackling health inequities.

The NZMA is pleased that an extra $21 million has been pledged for WellChild visits so that mothers have three additional WellChild visits.

“First time mothers especially will benefit from the additional support for themselves and the health of their baby.”