Mum fights good fight over birthing bungles

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A ... mother whose daughter is severely disabled after midwives botched her resuscitation at birth has taken her fight for an independent inquiry into the maternity sector to Parliament's health select committee.

Jenn Hooper's ... daughter ... has severe cerebral palsy and spastic tetraplegia, and up to 200 seizures a day. Two midwives struggled for an hour to correctly intubate Charley when she did not start breathing after being delivered.

Last week Mrs Hooper ... told politicians her harrowing story and those of other women whose children either died or were disabled during childbirth, in a bid to have the system changed. Her ... submission ... backed up a petition the women delivered to Parliament ...

It called for the independent review, a database which counts the deaths, disabilities and near misses in childbirth, a review of the training and supervision of lead maternity carers (LMCs), and the creation of a crisis team to support families whose babies die or are disabled during childbirth.

"All we're after is ensuring healthy, safe, live mothers and babies," ...

Following major maternity reforms between 1990 and 1996, most New Zealand mothers-to-be now choose a midwife who becomes their LMC until they give birth.

... "It's supposed to be a matter of choice. We've actually had our choices slashed," Mrs Hooper said.

The Good Fight wants bonuses and incentives paid to LMCs who book their client at a private birthing facility or non-tertiary hospital stopped, including a $60 bonus for midwives whose clients do not need to be admitted to hospital.

Mrs Hooper was also concerned with the training required to become an independent midwife, and that midwives no longer had to first be a nurse.

I'm not sure I understand this view. Why would a midwife need to be educated as a nurse in order to improve safety? Midwives do not need to be educated as mechanics, accountants or physiotherapists to be safe; why is nursing any different?

In 1990, at the start of the maternity reforms, New Zealand ranked 20th in the OECD for its infant mortality rate, counting babies who die in the first year of life. By 2002 it had dropped to 24th out of the 30 developed countries.

... When the group delivered the ... petition to Parliament, [the] Health Minister ... said several matters they raised were already being worked on. Government initiatives in the 2008-2012 maternity action plan included longer postnatal stays, three-way visits for at-risk women with their LMC and GP, refresher obstetrics training for GPs and rural midwifery recruitment.

The strong desire to opint fingers and blame others - particularly the professional - is strong whenever there is a bad outcome. Sometimes, it's not about a broken system; sometimes it is. Sometimes the professional stuffed up; other times they did not. Sometimes things just go wrong. I think we have an expectation that birth will always go well, and that every pregnancy will result in a live, healthy baby. It's simply not the case. Not in any species. If the midwives present at the birth had been negligent, NZ has processes in place to ensure that remedial steps are taken. The NZ system of encouraging midwifery as the primary model of care to pregnant and birthing women is fantastic. It is in line with WHO guidelines and best practice. The education and supervision of midwives may need tweaking, but that's a separate issue to Mrs Hooper's assertion that the system effectively needs to be changed.

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448