Baby deaths could be 'curbed by local care'

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 20/11/2012

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High rates of stillbirths and newborn deaths in South Auckland could be curbed by mothers-to-be using local maternity care, social worker says.

"They need to put pregnancy health back in the GP clinic," Mangere East Family Service Centre chief executive Peter Sykes said.

Unborn and newborn babies are dying at higher rates in South Auckland than the national average, according to an independent review of maternity care.

There would be 27 fewer stillbirths and newborn deaths in South Auckland each year if Counties Manukau District Health Board bought the statistics down to the national average, the review found.

Nine recommendations were made to address the maternity concerns, but Sykes said none of the solutions addressed the real issues faced by women in Mangere.

"They've got to actually get out to where the people are, not to punish the health providers for not doing that.

"In the old days your GP would look after you from birth to death. Now that doesn't happen. You've got to go to Parnell or Middlemore."

The birthing referral process was too complicated and some women simply can't afford transport costs to get to the hospital, he said.

"The vulnerability comes for those who drop out of school and become invisible."

Having pregnancy care at doctor clinics or a local maternity care unit could go some way to solve the problem, he said.

There were 2804 newborn and unborn baby deaths reported in New Zealand between 2007 and 2010. Of these, 469 were in Counties Manukau.

Counties Manukau District Health Board was not criticised in the report, but rather high-risk women were missing out on vital antenatal care.

Higher rates of obesity, diabetes and smoking were also increasing the risk factors of pregnancy in deprived areas.

Counties Manukau Health welcomed the findings of the independent review.

In a statement, the health group said there was a midwife shortage in the area and women were failing to engage with a GP or midwife.

The report's recommendations included prioritising care of vulnerable women, reviewing contraception, greater community maternity education and hiring a project manager to oversee the changes.

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