Why has he ruled out a full review of maternity services, as recommended by the Wellington Coroner, and what time frames are associated with any action he plans to take?
In answer to the first question, because the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee did not support the coroner’s findings. As to the second question, on time frames, recommendations on how to further improve information gathering are due in the next few weeks. Discussions to improve linkages between midwives and primary health organisations—planned before the coroner reported—have begun, and recommendations regarding midwifery and education have been in train, courtesy of the Midwifery Council, for over a year.
Why will he not use the data collected in hospitals and by midwives around the country to provide a platform to strengthen maternity services in this country, so that we can protect mothers and newborns from the horror stories that prompted the coroner’s review?
Is there general agreement that the current lead maternity care system works?
Yes, there most certainly is. At a meeting last week of general practitioners, midwives, obstetricians, gynaecologists, consumers, and the Ministry of Health, all participants publicly expressed support for the current lead maternity care system, and all emphasised the ongoing role of midwives in providing the bulk of maternity care and delivery services.
Have there not been enough reports of botched births and tragic deaths for the Minister to realise that New Zealand needs to gather the evidence and find out what is going wrong with maternity services in this country?
Indeed, perinatal mortality rates are dropping in this country. However, a number of people think that a review of maternity services is an important idea; they include the Wellington Coroner and the member who asked the question, but not a lot of other people. Among the long list of people who think it would be a waste of time and money is the National Party’s previous health spokesperson, Dr Paul Hutchison, as stated in a recent edition of North and South.
Why has the Government ignored for 6 years the recommendation of the National Health Committee that unless more information was collected there could be no assurance of the quality or safety of maternity services in this country?
The member fails to realise that since the 1999, I think it was, review of maternity services by the National Health Committee a very significant improvement in information around these matters has already been achieved. About 2 weeks ago I put out a 30-page—maybe longer—report that summarises all of that information gathering. However, the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee suggested that further improvements are still needed. Decisions on that will come my way shortly.
If one of the reasons why the Minister’s group has dismissed the need for a full review of maternity services in New Zealand is that there is simply not enough information to make a decision, why, then, is the Minister trying to stand up in the House and say that we do have the information for a review?
I am saying that we have much better information than we had in 1999, and that I am hopeful that we will have still better information. The Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee did not think that a review was worth the time and effort.
How does the Minister expect to know what to do if he cannot be bothered to find out what has gone wrong?
That is almost an unanswerable question, and I intend to treat it as such.
Has he found out from his predecessor, Annette King, why she ignored numerous recommendations to improve the level of perinatal data collection in New Zealand over the last 6 years, and what does he think Annette King’s agenda was that would cause her to ignore those recommendations?
Let me advise the House for the second and, I hope, the last time today that since the 1999, I think it was, National Health Committee report into maternity services there has been a very significant improvement in the quality and quantity of information gathered, and that information was recently amalgamated and released by me. I suggest the member look at this improved information.
However, although he continues to talk through my answer, I would just remind him that still further improvements have been suggested by the recent report of the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee, and I expect to be responding to those further reports over the next few weeks.