25 Oct 2008

NZ maternity care defended after Australian criticism

8:09 pm on 25 October 2008

A leading New Zealand obstetrician says her Australian colleagues are making an unnecessary battlefield of pregnancy and birth.

It follows a letter from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to members, seeking feedback on an Australian government proposal to introduce a system, similar to New Zealand's, of midwife-led care.

It cites problems including a reduction in services in rural areas and a maternal mortality report, not yet released, that allegedly shows a doubling in mortality since the system started in 1996.

The chairperson of New Zealand's Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee says the letter has generated inaccurate and potentially damaging publicity for New Zealand midwives.

Cindy Farquhar says a draft of the maternal mortality report is with the Associate Minister of Health, but it's impossible to compare earlier mortality rates because data is now collected differently.

The New Zealand College of Midwives is accusing Australian obstetricians of self-interest.

The organisation's chief executive Karen Guilliland believes Australian obstetricians are trying to safeguard their salaries.