Women put off using maternity service

Last updated 05:00 20/02/2014

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Allegations that some pregnant women have been neglected by maternity carers at Middlemore Hospital are "unacceptable", the Health Minister says.

Middlemore has been told to urgently address failings in its maternity wards after a report found vulnerable pregnant women were suffering from poor care.

Some are "dropping out" of the system because they are so disillusioned by the health care provided in South Auckland, the report found.

One mother said her husband delivered her baby at the hospital because the midwife was off gossiping.

Health Minister Tony Ryall has asked Counties Manukau Health to report back with its plan for changes.

Mr Ryall says the health board's new chairman Dr Lee Matthias has a background in maternity services and he has asked her to focus on that area.

"It's unacceptable if any mother feels unwelcome or disrespected by maternity services.

"And I have asked the DHB to report to me on what action it is taking to address these concerns," he says.

The report comes after Counties Manukau Health ordered a review of its maternity services because of higher than normal perinatal mortality rates.

It found there was an unequal access to good care at the hospital, with teenage mothers and Maori and Pacific Island women most at risk at receiving inadequate care.

Hospital overcrowding, workplace rivalries, midwife shortages and poor care for at-risk women are highlighted in the report, which sought feedback from former patients.

Young expectant mothers were also "dropping out" of maternity care and felt judged and stigmatised by medical staff and midwives.

One teenage mother said her midwife was so judgmental she didn't bother seeking help for her second pregnancy.

"I felt so uncomfortable so I just basically looked after myself through the whole nine months and gave birth in my own bath tub. I didn't go to hospital."

Women reported healthcare professionals didn't follow them up when they stopped going for pregnancy checks.

The report ordered urgent changes, including addressing staff shortages, prioritising high-needs women and encouraging expectant mothers to seek help in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Mr Ryall says he supports any research that identifies ways to improve maternity services.

"A lot of work has gone into further improving maternity services in South Auckland since a major review in 2012," he says.

‘The challenge of reaching high needs mums-to-be was identified in that review - clearly this report is part of that work," he says.

Work was already under- way to improve maternity services across the health system, he says.

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Counties Manukau Health maternity review spokeswoman Margie Apa says the purpose of the report was to hear women's concerns on issues. "It's about getting our workforce seeing what consumers see."

- Fairfax NZ News

- © Fairfax NZ News

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