09 October 2008

The New Zealand Medical Association today welcomed the release of the Maternity Action Plan consultation document and Wellington maternity review.

Major changes have occurred to New Zealand's maternity system over the past 20 years, at a time when maternity care was not a high priority with the Ministry of Health. There has been no monitoring of the effects of these changes, and inadequate data collection systems, said Dr Mark Peterson, the NZMA's maternity spokesman.

"Both reports call for a new perinatal maternity data collection system so that we can monitor changes within maternity care. This is strongly welcomed by the NZMA."

"A strategic approach to the provision of maternity services in New Zealand is long overdue, and this action plan represents a step in the right direction," said

"We will be studying it carefully and commenting in detail on the proposed actions. However, our immediate impression is that a number of important issues have not been addressed.

"We are disappointed that the need to bring primary maternity services into the Primary Health Organisation framework has not been more explicitly recognised, which would promote a closer connection between General Practice and maternity services.

"The current funding arrangements mean that it is difficult for General Practice to ensure continuity of medical care is available to women throughout their pregnancy, and this needs to be addressed.

"We are pleased to see the emphasis on developing the maternity workforce, which has been under substantial pressure for a number of years. We look forward to contributing to the Ministry’s consultation process."

Dr Peterson also said it was unhelpful to refer to primary, secondary and tertiary maternity services. Instead all maternity services should be integrated.