Rome, January 5 - Gynecologists and obstetricians from three different associations called on Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin to take on the fact that Italy's maternity wards are chronically understaffed. "Lorenzin must intervene personally, taking on the structural and staffing problems that torment Italy's maternity wards," the chiefs of the Association of Italian University Gynecologists, the Italian Gynecology and Obstetrics Association, and the Association of Hospital Gynecologists and Obstetricians said. The statement came in the wake of the deaths of five women in childbirth in seven days - four of them in hospitals, one of them in a home birth. The chronic lack of qualified staff makes it impossible in some cases to provide women with appropriate interdisciplinary teams made up of a gynecologist, an obstetrician, and an anesthetist, the doctors' associations said. Such teams are "a prerequisite for optimal care in obstetrical emergencies," the statement said. The doctors also called for "university-educated gynecological and obstetrics staff... and respect for behavioural norms or guidelines that are truly shared by the entire obstetrics and gynecology community". Having said that, the associations added that "there exists and always will exist a quota of maternal mortality in pregnancy...mortality in childbirth is significantly influenced by risk factors such as carrying twins, advanced age, and obesity". Italy, however, has one of the lowest maternal childbirth mortality rates in the West, the associations concluded.