Group aims to make maternity services safer

A revamped maternity action group is planning to place maternity services high on government agendas in election year as it calls for a safer system for parents and their babies.

AIM is the new name for former maternity action group The Goodfight which was established by Hamilton mother Jenn Hooper and other concerned parents in 2009.

The self-funded group has contracted Wellington public affairs specialist Tracy Abbott to advise and support AIM's intention of creating a safer maternity system for all New Zealand families, according to Ms Hooper, who said AIM's members included parents, health professionals and concerned midwives.

"We will pursue every avenue and opportunity to improve education, communication and legislation that is currently holding New Zealand back from truly leading the world in maternity care," Ms Hooper said.

But Health Minister Tony Ryall said the Government was committed to safe maternity practises.

"We are all on the same side with this issue – we all want the best systems in place to protect the safety of mothers and babies," he said.

Mr Ryall said the Government had already earmarked an extra $103 million over four years for improving maternity services.

"The Government's Maternity Quality Initiative is a major piece of work involving good collaboration and strong support between the maternity sector, including DHBs, clinicians, mothers and their families and colleges and the Ministry of Health, to improve safety and quality," he said.

Ms Hooper has been calling for changes to New Zealand's maternity system since the birth of her daughter Charley in 2005. Charley's birth and her mother's labour are documented on the new AIM website alongside the experiences of more than 50 parents and their babies.

"Charley suffered a massive brain injury at her birth due to negligent midwives and an inept maternity service," Ms Hooper writes.

"To cut a very long story short, we weren't monitored enough during the labour and when Charley was born not breathing the midwives started the basic resuscitation – but forgot to clear her airway – it really is as simple and as stupid as that," she states.

Ms Hooper, who suffered a life threatening haemorrhage following Charley's birth, said outcomes such as hers were completely unacceptable in a country like New Zealand.

"Every year in New Zealand more than 600 babies die during or around – including shortly after – childbirth, that's two jumbo jet planes worth of dead newborns every year and in many cases we don't know why," she said.

The group is calling for an independent database detailing the outcomes of adverse births including mortality rates and injured babies. Ms Hooper said that was the only way to get good solid evidence on what was working in the maternity sector and what was not.

Waikato Times