1 Aug 2009

Niue women have to give birth in NZ

6:34 pm on 1 August 2009

Niue's Minister of Health says the recent practice of sending women to New Zealand to give birth will continue for a few more months.

For the past 18 months a lack of staff has forced pregnant women to leave the island to give birth.

Minister of Health O'Love Jacobsen says a newly appointed senior medical officer is expected to arrive next week, but she is still trying to find an anaesthetist so the hospital can deal with any childbirth emergencies.

A new hospital was built on Niue in 2006 with aid from New Zealand after Cyclone Heta devastated the island in 2004.

But Radio New Zealand International reports women have been travelling to New Zealand to deliver their babies for the past 18 months since a previous doctor left Niue.

Mrs Jacobsen says safety concerns for mothers and babies are the reason.

She estimates about a dozen families each year are affected. The hospital hopes to have employed the doctors needed to change the situation by September this year.

However Opposition MP Terry Coe says up to 30 women have to face travelling to New Zealand to deliver babies each year at "great cost" to the government and the families themselves.

He says the women will be very happy when they can give birth in the island's hospital and be home within a week.