Friday, May 15, 2009

BIG reforms for midwifery in Australia

I was on the job, 'with woman', when the announcement was made by the federal Treasurer Wayne Swan in his 2009 Budget speech to Parliament. Please go to the MiPP blog for press releases and more information.

This is a HUGE step forward in reforming maternity care for all women in Australia.

The following statement is from the Department of Health website:

12 May 2009

The 2009-10 Budget includes a $120.5 million package of measures to improve choice and access to maternity services for pregnant women and new mothers in Australia.

As a result of this package, families will have greater choice in the type of care they wish to receive when having a baby. The package also recognises the important role played by qualified midwives in the birthing experience of many Australian women.

Responding to the recently completed national Maternity Services Review, the package includes:

* Medicare Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) benefits for services provided by eligible midwives, to provide greater access to maternity care provided by midwives working in collaboration with doctors – expanding choice for women.
* A Government-supported professional indemnity insurance scheme for eligible midwives.
* More services for rural and remote communities, where the state of maternity services is poor, through an expansion of the successful Medical Specialist Outreach Assistance Program (MSOAP).
* Extra scholarships for GPs and midwives to expand the maternity workforce, particularly in rural and remote Australia.
* A new 24 hour, seven days a week telephone helpline and information service to provide women, their partners and families with greater access to maternity information and support before and after birth.

These arrangements will be subject to agreement with states and territories on a National Maternity Services Plan – who will be asked to make complementary commitments and investments, particularly around the provision of birthing centres and rural maternity units.

The Government’s commitment to a National Maternity Services Plan recognises the importance attached to maternity services by the over 270,000 Australian women who give birth each year, and their families.

At this early stage it is impossible to predict the detail of the new scheme, which is to be introduced from 1 November 2010. (If anyone has questions that you would like discussed, please leave a message in the comments section.) Here are a few points:

* The Australian College of Midwives is 'at the table' with the Health Minister and her department, representing midwives. All midwives would be well advised to get your ongoing professional education systems up to date, using the ACM Mid-PLUS program.

* Maternity Coalition is seeking to represent consumer interests in advocating for women's choice in birthing their babies.

* Homebirth Australia is well positioned to lobby for women's rights to give birth in the setting of their choice, including their own home.

* Local lobby groups such as Homebirth in the Hills, natural parenting groups, and Save Birth Choices have an important role in educating mothers and the general public, and in encouraging activism at a local level.

I know that many blog readers have contacted their local MPs and spoken to them in relation to the Maternity Services Review. Thankyou for your work. I would like to encourage you to keep yourselves well informed, write letters to the editors of newspapers, call radio talk back programs ... keep maternity care as a topic worth thinking about.

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