NZ Midwifery system hailed as world leader


New Zealand midwives provide the best care in the world for mothers and newborn babies.

That's how international delegates attending a major international conference on midwifery and maternity care have described New Zealand's midwifery led maternity model of care.

They acknowledged that New Zealand is leading the world in setting the standards for midwifery practice and professionalism, citing midwifery education, regulation and training, and strong collaboration with other health professionals.

... The report highlighted "midwifery services as the focus of global efforts to realise the best possible care during pregnancy and childbirth for every woman and her newborn".

... New Zealand is alone in achieving a high level of access to midwives for all women and their babies.

The focus of the more than 3000 participants attending the 29th Triennial Congress of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) in South Africa was to further develop strategies to reduce maternal and infant mortality by strengthening midwifery worldwide.

The consensus world wide is that an educated well supported midwifery workforce will improve outcomes for mothers and babies.

... New Zealand is the only country that already conforms 100% to these new standards and competencies, and delegates from many countries are looking to us to help them with implementing similar models of midwifery care.

Several international agencies including the United Nations Population Fund, the World Health Organisation and the International Federation of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians pledged to support the implementation of the ICM standards.

... New Zealand midwives become degree qualified through three-year (equivalent to four years, as each academic year is 47 weeks long) Bachelor of Midwifery programmes. They are professionally accountable as they are regulated by the Midwifery Council, set up under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act of 2003.

"The NZCOM is New Zealand's professional organisation for midwives and we provide ongoing educational development for midwives after they are registered. We also promote 'Standards of Practice' through a variety of mechanisms including the Midwifery Standards Review process," ...

While there are some very positive aspects of the New Zealand maternity system, there are also a few concerning areas, such as the huge caseloads that NZ midwives are required to take, which can impact on continuity of care and in the time that is available to each woman. That aside, they have a great system where women are supported to birth at home or in hospital, and midwives are able to access any hospital of their choosing. Hence they can provide complete continuity of care, 100% funded by the government so women are not out-of-pocket. In Australia, the gates to private practice have opened and private practice is encouraged. Eligible midwives are able to provide medicare-funded care, but there is still an out-of-pocket cost to women, as there is with any private health service. Visiting rights have not yet been established, but some private midwives have negotiated ways of birthing in hospital with their clients. And of course homebirth remains an option. Hopefully in years to come, Australia will also be hailed as a midwifery world leader.

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