Maternity care in the Counties-Manukau region is in crisis says a Pukekohe-based midwife with more than 30 years experience.
The number of available midwives is now so low that senior midwives who normally co-ordinate the overall provision of maternity support are expected to fill the gaps without pay.
“In 33 years,’’ says Claire Eyes from the Pukekohe Birthing Unit, “I have never seen such stress, and it’s not going to get better. What worries me with the tiredness and depression I’m seeing is that something is going to happen and midwives are going to carry them blame. It doesn’t matter if you are a mother or health worker, this is about women suffering.”
She says part of the problem is her professions reluctance to speak out or contemplate strike action. Staff numbers of fallen well below what is needed for the most populated region of country, one that also features the higher proportion of “complex” (issues such as obesity) cases. While recruitment is an ongoing problem Eyes says some colleagues have been pushed out of the area by the high cost of living and the government removed midwifery from the list of skills the country uses to select immigrants.
“It’s got to where birthing units are trying to get women out as quickly as possibly while the mothers are wanting to leave because staffing levels mean they aren’t getting the care they are need through no fault of the staff.”
Judith Couch is another Franklin midwife concerned about “care rationing.” “We aren’t able to recruit and retain as many midwives and nurses as we need so mothers are going home before they are confident with breastfeeding or knowing that their baby is feeding as well as it can.”
Couch says their workload is worsened because the number of babies involved in each case isn’t considered when work is allocated: “No account is made for a case involving care of a baby or babies in the case of twins.”
The situation means she goes home “feeling I haven’t done my job well as I know I could.”
As a result both midwives agree with the findings of a study published last week in the New Zealand Medical Journal that found at least one in four adults can’t get the primary health care they require while 9 per cent fail to obtain secondary health care – such as a referral to see a medical specialist.
A nationwide healthcare funding awareness campaign, Yes We Care, is calling for an independent survey to accurately measure unmet health needs nationally, and has invited patients and people working in health to share their stories on the organisations website at: www.yeswecare.nz/share-your-story