Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Medicare funding for Midwifery Care

Australian College of Midwives Media Release

Access for pregnant women to Medicare funded midwifery care on the way

Less than 6 weeks after the Federal Budget, Heath Minister Nicola Roxon has today introduced the first bills to legislate giving women access to Medicare funding for expert midwifery care.

“This is historic legislation for childbearing women and their families” said Dr Barbara Vernon, Executive Officer of the Australian College of Midwives. “The ACM commends Roxon for her leadership in taking evidence based steps to enhance women’s choices in maternity care.”

“From November next year, women will be able to choose the care of a midwife to provide their pregnancy care in the community, follow the woman into hospital to provide her labour and birth, and follow her home again afterwards to provide the vital professional support in the early weeks of caring for a newborn baby”.

The government’s bills will pave the way for women to receive Medicare rebates for private midwifery care, as well as providing for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme rebates for relevant tests and drugs. One bill will specifically support eligible midwives to access professional indemnity insurance for their care.

“These reforms stand to benefit most Australian women. Once midwives are on the ground, women in rural and remote communities will particularly benefit. Closure of more than 120 rural maternity services in the past 10-15 years has left thousands of women with little or no access to local maternity care and even less access to continuity of midwifery care. Midwives, working collaboratively with GP obstetricians, will help meet women’s need for local care.

“This national legislation recognises for the first time that midwives make a valuable contribution to maternity care in their own right. Evidence confirms that women who receive continuity of care from a known midwife have shorter labours, less need for surgical interventions during birth, reduced rates of admission to special care nursery for their babies, reduced vulnerability to postnatal depression and higher rates of breastfeeding.”

Midwives who provide Medicare funded care will work collaboratively with doctors and other health professionals to ensure the individual needs of each woman and baby are fully met. Midwives will have visiting access to hospitals, and clear referral pathways for women in their care who need obstetric or other health care during their pregnancy, labour and/or postnatal care.

“We’re not expecting midwives to abandon employed positions in large numbers as a result of these policies. There will always be a need for hospital employed midwives to care for women and babies Rather we anticipate a gradual change, as midwives who are eligible to provide continuity of care in the community move to take up this opportunity”

“These reforms will not only give women greater choice than they currently have, they will also give most midwives more choice about how and where they provide care to women, thereby helping to reduce stress and loss of midwives to the maternity care workforce.”

“The only dark cloud in these historic reforms is that they will not provide for women who choose to give birth at home under the care of a midwife. There is mounting international evidence that the option of birth at home is safe for low risk women. ACM is concerned that the rise in unattended homebirths will only get worse unless the government extends its proposed indemnity scheme to ensure healthy low risk women can continue to choose homebirth with competent networked midwives.”

This is progress, lets keep the pressure on!

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