Friday, April 11, 2008

British obstetric system imploding

Further evidence that the British obstetric system is imploding from Reuters, Women in labor turned away from hospitals:
Nearly half of NHS maternity units had to turn away women in labour last year because they were full, figures showed on Thursday.

Furthermore, a shortage of facilities or staff led to almost one in 10 of these trusts closing more than 10 times.

One trust closed 28 times, while another was forced to shut its doors 39 times...

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said 400 extra consultants are needed in England and Wales.

Maternity units are being put under additional pressure because of the growing birth rate, increased numbers of obese women giving birth -- who require extra care -- and the rise in the number of women in their 40s becoming pregnant.

Richard Warren, RCOG honorary secretary, said: "It is imperative to ensure that maternity units are appropriately staffed and resourced to meet the demands that the service requires."
The stated intention of the government to offer homebirth to all mothers by 2009 looks even more absurd in light of these figures. There are not enough providers to care for the population as it is. Diverting some providers to one on one home care for the privileged is hardly the way to remedy this problem.

There are two possible reasons for the government promising a service that it cannot possibly provide, and neither is reassuring. The first possibility is that the government is utterly out of touch with the needs of the people it serves and has no idea the care of average women is already compromised. The second possibility (my cynicism leads me to believe that this is the real reason) is that offering homebirth is a public relations ploy design to divert attention from the dreadful state of British obstetric care. In this scenario, the government has absolutely no intention of providing homebirth services for all the women who want them. It currently cannot meet the staffing requirements for basic services; it is clearly impossible, and will further strain the system, to provide luxury services for a select few.

If the homebirth promise is indeed a public relations ploy, gullible homebirth advocates (and the many midwives among them) have ensured the success of the ploy. The government's "plan" to provide homebirth services reminds me of Marie Antoinette's admonition to "let them eat cake" in the face of bread riots. In Marie Antoinette's defense, she didn't have a clue about the reality faced by her subjects. The British government is actually planning to divert resources to give "cake" to a few and let the majority starve for want of bread. What's truly amazing is that those who stand to benefit from the provision of "cake" (homebirth) have been happily deluded into the belief that they are going to get what they want and cheerfully unconcerned about what happens to women other than themselves.

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