LEGISLATION giving midwives greater authority over the maternity care of Australian women will be launched at the end of the month, but it could take years before real changes are delivered.
The new legislation … marks a ''major cultural shift'' in the provision of maternity care, according to Patrice Hickey, Victorian president of the Australian College of Midwives.
But, it will take up to five years for the shift from hospital-based pregnancies to a significant number managed by private midwives in superclinics to take root, she said, because most Victorian midwives did not realise the laws applied to them.
Ms Hickey said the highly publicised controversy surrounding the role of midwives in home births had obscured the issue. She said the wide-ranging review found women wanted continuity of care during their pregnancies, with one midwife as the primary carer.
… ''This is a major cultural shift that no one has paid attention to because a lot of people thought it was about the home-birth issue,'' said Ms Hickey.
One of the predicted major changes will mean a significant number of hospital-based midwives moving into private practise, setting up offices alongside GPs and physiotherapists in superclinics.
… The new legislation is meant to take effect on July 1, but it is still bedevilled by a number of unresolved issues, including: ■ Whether access arrangements for midwives to attend births in hospitals will be governed at the state level or by the Commonwealth. ■ What services Medicare will cover - which means that midwives cannot yet decide what to charge their clients … All midwives in private practice - regardless of whether they attend labours and births in a hospital or at home - will have to meet new criteria related to an ''eligible''' midwife status for Medicare access and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
… The insurance will cover prenatal and postnatal care, and attending labour and births in hospitals, but not home births. The arrangements were confirmed last week …