20 May 2009

Questions raised over maternity service expansion

8:23 pm on 20 May 2009

There are fears a shortage of beds and staff in hospitals will hold back the Government's extension of maternity services.

The Government has announced it will spend an extra $103.5 million over four years on maternity services.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said the money would go toward giving new mothers the option of a longer stay in hospital to help them with breastfeeding, and will also cope with an expected increase in the number of births.

Wellington's Capital and Coast District Health Board has admitted it would struggle to provide the necessary staffing for the extension of maternity services.

Maternity Services Consumer Council coordinator Lynda Williams says the issue is much wider than the Wellington region, as in many areas there are not the beds or the staff to offer extra time in hospital.

Ms Williams says the lack of beds will mean ways will have to be found to support first-time mothers in their homes.

The College of Midwives says some DHBs will not be able to deliver expanded maternity services because they have not adequately planned for the future.

However, a district health boards representative has expressed confidence the funding will be enough to cover longer hospital stays.

The chairman of the board that represents all 21 district health boards, Peter Glensor, says each district is assessing how it can offer the extra hospital stays.