8 Oct 2008

GP labels maternity system a scandal

3:40 pm on 8 October 2008

A book by a Christchurch doctor claims faults in the maternity system are risking the lives of mothers and babies.

In The Baby Business, Lynda Exton GP claims maternity reforms in 1990 have led to a situation in which women are more likely to die from childbirth now than at any time in the past three decades.

Dr Exton told Nine to Noon on Wednesday that New Zealand's maternity services have slipped from 20th in the OECD to 24th.

She says up to a third of women have trouble finding a midwife and there is also a lack of information for pregnant women.

Dr Exton is also critical of the quick discharge of women from hospital after giving birth.

The Ministry of Health is refuting Dr Exton's claims. Chief adviser for child and youth health, Pat Tuohy, says New Zealand's infant mortality figures continue to fall.

Dr Tuohy also says nine out of 10 women who took part in the ministry's last maternity survey, were very happy with the service they received.

The College of Midwives says maternal deaths are rare in New Zealand and the small number of such events distorts the statistics.

Chief executive Karen Guilliland says the rate of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births rose by almost 2% between 2004 and 2005, but that increase related to only one extra maternal death in that period.