14 Oct 2008

National announces maternity policy

5:35 pm on 14 October 2008

The National Party would pay district health boards an extra $11 million dollars to encourage them to allow mothers to remain in hospital longer after giving birth.

Party leader John Key said National is concerned that mothers are being rushed out of hospital after giving birth.

Mr Key told a group of mothers in West Auckland that National would fund an optional meeting each trimester for at-risk mothers, so they could discuss their care with their lead maternity carer and their family doctor together.

Dr Bev O'Keefe, who chairs a group representing GPs, says such meetings would be useful, and would give mothers the chance to see that their midwife and GP are working together.

Doctors say National's proposal for refresher courses for GPs, while welcome, is unlikely to see them back delivering babies, partly because of cost and the hours involved.

Medical Association maternity spokesman Mark Peterson says although GPs may not return to doing deliveries, there is still a place for upskilling in early maternity care.

John Key said National would also establish a voluntary bonding scheme that writes off student loan debt for graduate midwives who agree to work in hard-to-staff areas for three to five years.

He said National would also pay $3 million a year to expand Plunketline to become a 24-hour service.

Plunket is delighted with the policy, but the Labour Party says it's a pale imitation of its ongoing work to improve maternity services.