Eye on the Electorate
The provision of maternity services in the Rangitikei, and indeed throughout New Zealand, has concerned me for some time.
During the last parliamentary term, I did a significant amount of research into both ante-and post-natal care in our region.
I visited health providers, attended community meetings and talked to midwives, GPs and new and expectant mothers.
While no one was questioning the fundamental principals of maternity care, their main concerns seemed to be centred around issues of workforce shortages, continuity of care and the integration of maternity services with primary health services.
The rural/urban divide in terms of quality and availability of care was identified. And so too was the chronic shortage of GPs engaged in what was once a proud cornerstone of maternity care.
I am delighted that this Government has made improving the provision of maternity services throughout New Zealand a funding priority.
In an initiative that was announced by Health Minister Tony Ryall last week, we have pledged an extra $103.5 million over the next four years in order to boost maternity services for Kiwi mums and their families.
In doing so, we're addressing the concerns that have been raised by many Rangitikei constituents over recent years.
This additional funding includes $38.5m to provide for longer stays for new mothers in birthing facilities.
At present, many new mums say they feel pressured into going home from hospital before they are ready.
We believe that mothers should be able to stay in hospital longer, so they can establish breastfeeding and gain confidence in caring for their baby before they return home.
This will help mothers bond with their babies and get parenting off to a positive start.
The Government has also invested $9.9m over four years to cover the cost of additional visits to GPs and lead maternity carers for at-risk mothers during their pregnancy.
This will help encourage better integration with primary health care services by supporting awareness between healthcare professionals and increasing the level of support for those women whose pregnancy is deemed at-risk.
There's also $1.1m to fund obstetric training or refresher courses for GPs with a view to increasing the number of GP-lead maternity carers.
Local doctors are important members of our communities especially in rural areas and the number of Obstetric GPs who are actively involved in maternity care has dropped dramatically.
We want to reverse this trend by making it easier for GPs to retrain or refresh their obstetric skills.
Because ongoing support for new parents is also vital, we're investing $14m in the 24/7 Plunketline telephone advice service, which is to be spent over the next four years.
All of this extra support for maternity services is just part of the Government's commitment to providing better, sooner and more convenient healthcare for New Zealanders.
We know that many mothers-to-be struggle to find a midwife and indeed too many New Zealanders even find it hard to register with a GP.
Earlier this year, we launched a voluntary bonding scheme to keep kiwi-trained midwives, GPs and nurses in New Zealand.
Graduates in the scheme who work in hard-to-staff communities and specialist areas for three to five years, will be eligible for student-loan write-offs and cash incentives.
The changes National is making to improve frontline care across our health system will give new mothers more confidence and support.
These changes will also help the next generation of New Zealanders get the start in life that they deserve.
We have taken a huge step towards addressing the worsening shortage of midwives and GP Obstetricians, and big steps towards improving other significant areas of concern regarding maternity care services in this country.
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