The Federal Government has been grilled at its latest community cabinet meeting over its proposed changes for midwives and maternity services.
The Government wants to make midwifery services eligible for Medicare rebates, but only if homebirth midwives work in consultation with a doctor.
Several women at last night's meeting ... told the cabinet ministers that the changes would restrict the choice of women who only want to give birth with a midwife at home.
But Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the Government is simply taking a cautious approach.
"To make sure we've got some backup protocols in place, so if something does go wrong that there are agreements with the hospital or doctor to be able to step in quickly," she said.
"And that is a conservative approach, but it isn't a conservative approach to say midwives are doing good work, have never been recognised in the history of providing Medicare for the last 50 years and we're going to actually change that."
She told the meeting that medical professionals should be working together.
"I'm unapologetically on the record as saying let's encourage people across the health services spectrum to work together and make sure that women can safely choose options that are good for them and suit them," she said.
Women who access private midwifery services will be able to access Medicar benefits. As well as this, midwives will be able to order medications via the PBS.
The maternity reforms provide women with greater access to continuity of midwifery care. The standard care in a public hospital is for women to see one group of midwives in the clinic, another group in the delivery suite (who work shifts) and then another lot of midwives when they are being cared for with their baby. The maternity reforms will make it possible for more women to be cared for by their own midwife, whom they have chosen. The same midwife will provide care from the first antenatal consultation right up until about 2-4 weeks after the baby is born.
This is a huge step forward for Australian maternity care. For the first time, women will be able to birth in hospital under the care of a private midwife. Private midwifery care will also be available for home births (as is currently the case). We are continuing to book women for home births beyond July.