The number of new-born babies that die in Dutch hospitals is 23% higher at night and 7% higher at the weekend partly due to the lack of skilled staff on duty, according to research by the university hospitals in Rotterdam and Utrecht.
Gynaecologists Gerard Visser and Eric Steegers also point out that Caesarean operations now account for 15% of all births in the Netherlands, a three-fold increase on 20 years ago.
Meanwhile home births, which used to be considered normal in the Netherlands, now only account for around 10% of births in major cities such as Rotterdam and Utrecht, say Visser and Steegers.
Half of the women who want to give birth at home end up needing hospital treatment, they say. And while an emergency can arise at any time, gynaecology departments are not geared to cope with this and only have assistants on duty at nights and weekends.
‘The unique Dutch system of midwifery is under pressure. Baby mortality rates are no longer among the lowest in Europe and have not been for some time. Maternal deaths have risen in the last 20 years and in half of these cases there is talk of sub-standard care,’ say Visser and Steegers.
The researchers conclude that the midwifery sector in the Netherlands needs to be restructured to give more emphasis on postnatal care and round-the-clock availability of gynaecologists in hospitals.
The research was published on the website of the medical magazine Medisch Contact on Friday.
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