Maternity ultrasounds funded by DHB

Hawke’s Bay DHB is now funding the co-payments on community maternity ultrasounds making it free for pregnant women to have essential ultrasounds from Wairoa to Central Hawke’s Bay.

DHB Obstetric Head of Department Dr Kirsten Gaerty said the primary purpose of maternity services was to ensure all women had access to care, which focused on the needs of women and their babies.

“Obstetric ultrasounds are vital during pregnancy as they screen for abnormalities and assess fetal growth and wellbeing. The ability to diagnose birth defects and concerns about fetal growth early ensures the right monitoring is in place for timely intervention and can improve birth outcomes.” 

Dr Gaerty said obstetric ultrasound was also the cornerstone of the Growth Assessment Programme, (GAP) which was being rolled out nationally to reduce perinatal morbidity and mortality. Hawke’s Bay DHB has been part of the GAP program for more than three years.

“The number of maternity scans per woman has increased significantly from an average of 2.6 scans per woman giving birth in 2007/08 to 4.9 scans in 2018/19. Community funding for these scans hadn’t increased and over time most community ultrasound providers have been charging pregnant women a co-payment.

“This financial barrier prevented some women from getting scans and women with more complex pregnancies often required more scans. It is important cost is not a factor for women needing scans.”

Dr Gaerty said the ability for women to access these scans in a timelier manner will help align with clinical follow-up and make care more co-ordinated for women and improve the patient journey.

Director of Midwifery (Acting) Catherine Overfield echoed this sentiment saying it was good news for pregnant women in Hawke’s Bay.

“This initiative helps address inequities of access to maternity scanning – enabling hapū māma with complex pregnancies.

The majority of the funding came from Māori Health’s equity funding.

Executive Director Māori Health Patrick Le Geyt said poor access to health care was considered a key factor in generating poorer health outcomes and cost was the most significant barrier to accessing health care for Māori, Pacific and other disadvantaged populations.

“By providing free ultrasound scans, we hope more women have safe pregnancies and hope to improve equitable health outcomes for our Hawke’s Bay community.”


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