Health Ministers ensure Australian women can continue to birth at home with midwives

Health Ministers ensure Australian women can continue to birth at home with midwives

MEDIA RELEASE    10 August 2012

Homebirth Australia congratulates Federal, State and Territory Health Ministers for ensuring midwives can continue to provide care to Australian women for birth at home.

Australian Health Ministers met in Sydney today for a meeting of the Standing Council on Health (SCoH) and agreed to extend the professional indemnity insurance exemption for privately practising midwives and agreed to vary the determination on collaborative arrangements required of midwives.

Midwives across Australia have found it virtually impossible to obtain collaborative agreements with individual doctors as required under the current legislation.

Some midwives had approached more than 40 doctors and obstetricians and all had refused citing advice from their insurance company or the AMA. This requirement for Collaborative Arrangements had resulted in fractured care for women and impacted on the safety of homebirth in Australia.

“The safety of Australian women and babies must come first in maternity care reforms. Ensuring the workforce of private midwives across Australia can continue to function efficiently and effectively is one of the most important things that can be done to ensure the safety of homebirth in Australia”, said Homebirth Australia spokesperson, Michelle Meares.

“We congratulate the Health Ministers on fixing this problem that midwives have been reporting since 2010 when the Determination was passed.”

“The extension of the exemption for indemnity insurance for private midwives for homebirth is a positive move as it allows the best possible system to be put in place that will not have the unintended outcome of denying some Australian women and babies access to professional midwifery care at home,” Ms Meares said.

‘Whenever Australian women give birth at home, they must have professional midwives available to care for them and their babies, and any policy or legislation put in place must be scrutinised to ensure that it will not have the unsafe consequence of leaving women abandoned without access to midwives.”

“The Australian Medical Association has expressed outrage at this move claiming it will allow midwives to practise independently. Yet this is what women who choose homebirth want. Women choose homebirth with an independent midwife so they can be guaranteed care by the midwife of their choice and make their own decisions about the care in collaboration with their chosen care provider during pregnancy and birth,” Ms Meares said.

“Women need respectful collaborative maternity care – they must have access to the whole spectrum of maternity care professionals according to their unique needs and the decision about who to involve in her care must remain with the woman and her family.”

Contact: Michelle Meares 0439 645 372

Collaboration was the focus of the National Guidance on Collaborative Maternity Care
 commissioned by the Department of Health and Ageing and released in 2010 from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). In it’s discussion of collaboration this document states:

A woman decides who she involves in this decision-making process,
 be it a health professional, partner, doula, her extended family, friends or community, and should be free to consider their advice without being pressured, coerced, induced or forced into care that is not what she desires (McLean and Petersen 1996). Women have the right to decline care or advice if they choose, or to withdraw consent at any time.
Therefore, if a woman declines care or advice based on the information provided, her choice must be respected (UNESCO 2005). Importantly, women should not be ‘abandoned’ because of their choice (FPA Health and Read 2006, Faunce 2008; NHMRC consultations 2009).