Minister looks at midwife training

Health Minister Tony Ryall has asked midwifery regulators to look at how graduate midwives can get more training before becoming lead maternity carers.

"I have asked the Midwifery Council to look at how student and graduate midwives can gain more time attending births in secondary and tertiary hospitals," Mr Ryall said.

This could see the currently optional Midwifery First Year of Practice programme made compulsory for all new graduates, who would be placed with a trained mentor and undergo training designed to ease them into practice.

The move comes as more parents are coming forward claiming that babies have died or become compromised through midwifery inexperience and registering their concern through an online petition.

The petition asks that new graduates complete a two-year internship in a base hospital beforebeing able to become independent lead maternity carers (LMCs).

Michelle Gilbertson claimed that her midwife did not pick up that her baby was breech until it was too late.

"I was an hour away from the nearest hospital. As a result, our baby boy died from asphyxiation trying to get him out," Ms Gilbertson said.

"We should not be losing babies in this day and age like we are," she said.

Midwifery Council chairperson Dr Sally Pairman said although voluntary uptake of the programme was already high, the council would support making it compulsory.

"But we could only do this if government funding for it could be assured – we hope this will be the case," Dr Pairman said.

Paulette Coombes, who signed the petition, believes an overhaul of the current graduate system is "a no brainer".

"It is sickening to think that this is not classed as a seriously urgent need for change. How many more babies are going to end up dead or damaged through inexperience?"

Lynne Sanson said that in any other profession graduates would start out as interns.

"Teachers, doctors and those who we entrust with our children are all supervised when they leave their training institutes," she said. "Why would we not put the same requirements onto those whom we trust to bring our newborns into this world. It is unsafe for mother and baby."

Mr Ryall said there was "a major piece of work under way" with the maternity sector and the Health Ministry to improve the safety and quality of maternity services for mothers and their babies.

"They are developing a number of initiatives including a safety and quality programme for maternity services, new protocols for care and emergency transfers, and better quality monitoring of maternity services," he said.

Waikato Times