20 May 2009

More money for maternity services in Budget

10:44 am on 20 May 2009

The Government is to spend an extra $103.5 million over four years on maternity services.

In a pre-Budget announcement on Tuesday, Health Minister Tony Ryall said $38.5 million of the total will go toward giving new mothers the option of staying longer in birthing facilities to help them with breastfeeding.

The package includes almost $10 million for an optional meeting each trimester for at-risk mothers with their doctor and lead maternity carer.

An extra $1 million will go to obstetric training or refresher courses for GPs who want to return to maternity care.

A further $40 million will cover the higher birth rate, and the remainder will pay for the Government's commitment to make Plunketline a 24-hour service.

Midwives say it is important that new mothers are able to stay in hospital longer if they wish.

Doctors agree, but say maternity care will not improve overall until services are integrated with other aspects of care in the community.

The Government says it is keeping its word by providing a sizeable funding boost for maternity services.

La Leche League director Barbara Sturmfels allowing first time mothers to stay in hospital longer will be good news for new mothers learning to breastfeed, but follow-up support is just as important.

The Labour Party acting health spokesperson Annette King says the funding boost skims over post-hospital care.

She says the Goverment promised to expand its Well Child Programme to offer more post childbirth visits to mothers and babies.

The minister, Tony Ryall, says the promised visits will be dealt with in next year's Budget.

District health boards are confident the funding will be enough to cover longer hospital stays for mothers and babies after childbirth.

The chairman of the board for the 21 DHBs, Peter Glensor, says each district is assessing how it can offer the extra hospital stays.