Siobhain Ryan | February 21, 2009
MIDWIVES will challenge doctors' financial monopoly over birth and pregnancy after a new government report proposed they be allowed to bill Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for their services.
Kevin Rudd's maternity services review will today deliver a long-awaited report that could dramatically increase opportunities for Australia's 12,000 midwives to set up their own practices, consult to public hospitals and provide subsidised services from private hospitals for expectant mothers.
It has left the door open to setting up midwives as the only Medicare billers who may operate without a GP referral ... And it could also give midwives the right to write subsidised prescriptions and order MBS blood tests and ultrasounds.
.... The Australian Medical Association wants government funding of midwifery services expanded only if they remain under medical supervision.
Obstetricians also strongly object on safety grounds to separate Medicare access for midwives who operate their own practices.
Midwifery groups, on the other hand, prefer a New Zealand-style system where each pregnant woman receives a certain amount of funding and is given the choice of provider, whether midwife, GP or specialist obstetrician.
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has made no secret of her desire to expand the roles of ... midwives, bringing her into sharp conflict with the AMA ...
The Review ... requires that midwives work as part of a team, involving doctors ... in the care of expectant and new mothers. It also demands a higher standard of training from midwives given access to Medicare and the PBS. And it rejects government rebates for home births, which means parents who choose the option will continue to pay its full costs.
It will be interesing to see how many of the report's findings are implemented.