Saturday, June 20, 2009

not interested in anything less

I was preparing a reply to a comment in the next post, and have brought it to a new post, as the issue needs more critical exploration.

The writer stated that the care of a private midwife has suited her well, and she is not interested in anything less. That is understandable, and I believe many women - and many independent midwives for that matter, agree.

But in any society the choices that we have are defined by laws set down by government, and the Australian government - the previous Liberal one, as well as the current Labor one - have agreed that it's in the public's interest to require all health professionals to have indemnity insurance. After 1 July next year women will not be able to access independent midwifery for homebirth (unless changes are made to the legislation or to the accessibility of indemnity insurance for midwives).

The only profession for which indemnity insurance is not available for private practice is midwifery. This is a global phenomenon. Countries where midwives practise autonomously (and are not under threat as Australian midwives are) - Netherlands, Canada, and New Zealand, for example, have insurance schemes that are supported by government funds. New Zealand's system requires a percentage of the earnings of all health professionals to be placed in an accident compensation fund, from which payments are made to any patient or client who experiences harm. This is very different from Australia's system, in which anyone who claims they have been harmed in their health care has to sue their doctor/midwife/hospital in a court of law, or come to an arrangement (payout) prior to going to court.

It is unreasonable to ask that one section of the health care community, independent midwifery, have different rules than the rest. I believe a scheme similar to the New Zealand scheme, would bring equity into the maternity system, and take decisions about compensation out of the courts. Of course matters of professional misconduct or negligence would need to be dealth with at a higher level, as they are currently, and will be under the new Health Practitioner legislation.

The 'decision' that midwives providing homebirth independently should not be indemnified, and consequently the outlawing of privately attended homebirths is a decision of the current Health Minister, Nicola Roxon. She needs to hear from every person who cares, and she needs to change that decision. We, the public, have the right to tell our elected representatives, what we consider to be reasonable.

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