Rural Women New Zealand say it is ironic that in the 125th year of suffrage, New Zealand women are struggling to gain and retain health services.

"New Zealand is still hailed as a world leader because New Zealand women won their right to vote in 1893, however, we are behind in maternity care," says board member and Health convenor Margaret Pittaway.

"RWNZ has been observing the developing dilemma for midwives and those they care for, with increasing concern. Rural midwives are simply not receiving a living wage due to the expectation they travel many more miles to visit patients," says Margaret.

She says RWNZ holds grave fears for the wellbeing and safety of rural mums-to-be.

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"On top of this, is the insidious progression in the closure of small community hospitals and maternity units in the belief that centralisation of essential services is the best method," she says.

"Rural Women New Zealand firmly believes that not only is it vital to retain community hospitals for the wellbeing of our new mothers and families, but is vital for the sustainability of rural communities. They are calling on the Government to empower rural communities by urgently addressing the crisis in rural health services, particularly resignations as midwives seek more attractive opportunities.