Pregnant Waikato women can no longer access private obstetric care.

The service, which cost $3500, was stopped five months ago because there weren't enough specialists working privately to keep it running.

The Herald understands limited support for private obstetric care within the public sector contributed to the demise of the service.

Previously, expectant Waikato mothers could choose a specialist to work in conjunction with a midwife, who was the lead maternity carer.


Care provided by the midwife was paid for by the Government but the private specialist care was paid for by the patient.

The specialist care included examinations and monitoring throughout the pregnancy as well as delivery of the baby in a tertiary hospital.

Hamilton Obstetric Centre obstetricians Dr V.P. Singh and Dr Lakshmi Ravikanti couldn't keep up with the increasing number of patients wanting private care.

"It's really hard to make it work with just the two of us to give cover and at the same time the systems are not specifically designed for private obstetric practice in public hospitals," Dr Singh said.

"Unless we have a roster of people on call it doesn't work, or there has to be some kind of understanding that we need extra support from the public sector, which public hospitals currently don't need to provide because that's not part of the contract."

Dr Singh said obstetric practice put pressure on the two doctors in their other commitments as gynaecological surgeons and fertility specialists, both in the public and private sectors, and required long hours which took a toll on their personal lives.

By contrast, in Auckland there were dozens of private obstetricians which allowed one to constantly be on-call to private patients. There and in Wellington the service costs $5000.

"I can't duplicate that in Hamilton with just two people. I need more help."

Dr Singh said with a roster of four obstetricians they could safely cover the nine patients a month wanting the care but other public specialists had not opted in.

"We tried to attract people. Lakshmi and I are getting a bit tired with the number of patients we are getting and we can't refuse people. We simply thought if we can't provide a good service we should shut it, which is a shame because we feel quite passionate about delivering babies."

He believed lifestyle was a key reason why other specialists in Hamilton did not opt into private practice.

Dr Ravikanti said when one of her patients was left waiting too long in a potentially serious condition, she decided they could no longer provide the service.

Smaller centres such as Tauranga and New Plymouth also did not have private obstetric care but Hamilton was the biggest centre where it was no longer available.

Hamilton also no longer has any GP obstetricians, the number going from 35 to zero after the major maternity reforms between 1990 and 1996.

Hamilton independent or hospital-based midwives (lead maternity carer)

Not available:
* GP obstetricians
* Private obstetric specialists