The Maternity Services Review handed down its report on February 21st, 2009. This report made the 38th inquiry into maternity services since 1985. I believe the only issue more investigated into is petrol prices. The needs of women and their babies should come before that of vested interest groups, however repeatedly this isn’t what happens.
The Report examined midwifery practice, which is long overdue. The care of a known midwife from early pregnancy through labour and birth and the early post-natal period has considerable benefits. These benefits can be measured financially through a reduction in unnecessary surgical birth and other interventions. More subtle but important benefits are increased rates of bonding and breastfeeding, lower rates of post-natal depression and greater satisfaction with the experience of childbirth. This greatly assists a woman entering motherhood.
Unusually the Report does not examine the urgent need to redress obstetric practice in Australia. Many practices currently employed by obstetricians are not based on sound research evidence, but rather custom and practice. This leads to varied outcomes, for example one hospital may have a caesarean section rate of 16% while another of similar size and capacity has a rate of 45%. Maternity outcomes in Australia are based on post-code. There is currently not a bench-mark for quality and safety. The cost of maternity care is spiraling out of control. The Medicare Safety-net was established in 2004 to assist Australian families with the cost of health care. In just over 4 years payments made to Obstetricians under the Medicare Benefits Schedule have increased by approximately 300%. Such increases are not sustainable and have the capacity to see the demise of the Medicare Safety-net, something that will impact many Australians.
Private health costs have risen again this week. The cost of maternity care is considerable. Childbirth is the highest volume area of health and accounts for the greatest number of bed stays. Private maternity care is totally anti-competitive. As a taxpayer who funds the Governments 30% rebate on private health insurance premiums I object to a system that is unnecessarily expensive, not based on evidence and gives women no choice but medically dominated services.
The report of the Maternity Services Review states that the Government will not support the costs of private homebirth services under the Medicare Benefits Schedule, nor will they provide indemnity insurance assistance to midwives working in private practice. Midwives in private practice are the only health professionals in Australia currently without indemnity insurance. This is not due to their practice, or claims history; it is simply due to the fact that we are small in number. Medical practitioners and their clients currently enjoy indemnity protection at an estimated cost of $500 Million.
There are currently plans to establish a national registration body for health professionals by mid next year. An appropriate requirement for registration is professional indemnity insurance. If midwives in private practice are not assisted, they will be prevented from registering. If we practice midwifery unregistered we face a jail term and/or a large fine. If national registration proceeds as planned women choosing homebirth will be unable to access a registered midwife, and essentially the practice will go underground. It is not acceptable that women are unable to choose the care of a registered midwife to give birth at home. This is a violation on human rights, specifically the Fortelesa Declaration of 1985 (from the world health organisation). Homebirth is a nationally funded option in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and The Netherlands. I am now asking that you support a woman¹s right to choose where and with whom she gives birth, regardless of your own birthing choices, by advocating for midwives in private practice. I ask this as every woman has the right to choose her maternity care giver.
I am writing asking for your help. Regardless of where you choose to give birth or how you choose to give birth, homebirth with a midwife in private practice should still be a viable option to available to women. This is affecting every midwife in private practice around Australia. If we don’t speak up now our daughters will have no options but a medicalised childbirth. I know I want my children to be able to make that choice themselves, not because they have no options available to them.
How you can help:
1. Join the Maternity Coalition. It is only $40 for individual membership.
2. Write to Nicola Roxon and list your concerns share the options that you had had available to you when you went into labour.
Nicola Roxon Minister for Health and Ageing Parliament House CANBERRA, ACT, 2600 nicola.Roxon.MP@aph.gov.au
3. Write to your federal MP. Visit the AEC website to find your MP
4. Pass this message onto every woman, man, sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent etc that you know. If we don’t stand up now, we will have no choice in the future.
Please help save the homebirth midwife and join my campaign.