15 Apr 2021

Fee for ultrasounds was a 'barrier to healthcare', midwife says

11:24 am on 15 April 2021

Midwives in the Bay of Plenty hope the introduction of free ultrasound scans for pregnant women in their district will pave the way for the rest of the country.

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File image. Photo: 123RF

The region's DHB has been partially funding the scans but will now also pay for the $45, which has been charged by privately run maternity providers.

It was estimated about 40 percent of pregnant women in the region chose to skip ultrasound scans last year.

Ōpōtiki midwife Lisa Kelly said the fee had been a barrier to healthcare.

"Maternity care in New Zealand is free so that barrier of $45 - the women can't afford to pay so they are not attending their scans. They'd rather spend the money on paying bills and putting food on the table," Kelly said.

"It's quite common, it's very common. It's not just the payment, it's also the travel for women living out in the Ōpōtiki district, having to travel to the provider in Whakatāne, it's quite a long distance.

"Having to pay your $45 co-payment and having to pay for petrol, you're talking $100 just to get your scan. So it's really unaffordable and just a huge barrier for our women."

She was confident more women would show up to their scans if they didn't have to fork out the $45.

"They want to know their baby is growing well, if it's healthy. It's not just a gender scan ... and they don't want to miss the scans but sometimes they have no option but to.

She wanted to see the scans funded nationwide.

"All DHBs need to provide free scans for all women."

Bay of Plenty DHB said the free scans would improve clinical outcomes and equity.