I know many of the readers of this blog are interested and very concerned about the matters that I and other Australian midwives have been highlighting in the past months.
On Tuesday I went with several like minded colleagues, including Clare Lane from Midwives Naturally, to the Victorian stakeholders forum on the government's National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health professionals. A report is being prepared, and I will let you know when it is available. Within the limitations of a large forum's question and answer session, we made every attempt we could to ask the Health Minister to provide a means for the continuing practice of independent midwives.
How did it go? The short answer is that we came away feeling emotionally drained, having banged our heads against a bureaucratic brick wall. The minister clearly stated that the government does not want to support the indemnity insurance for ‘a small pocket of women and midwives’, when there are what he said are ‘better ways to spend the public dollar across the whole health system’ (as he waved his arm across the room at all professionals). I asked what would happen if it was decided that all private GP practices should close, and they be required to work under the supervision of hospitals. (see previous post) The Minister assured the audience that that would not happen. That's a relief, isn't it! After the initial response on questions of homebirth, there was an audible sigh in the room every time another independent midwifery or homebirth question was asked.
Many women choose an independent midwife as their care provider because they value the fact that they have personally chosen that midwife. The same could be said for any other health practitoner - or even the hairdresser or the vet who treats your dog.
Tuesday night was the coldest night for many years in Melbourne. When the phone rang at 2.30 am, and I got into the car to head out, I was shivering a little until the car's heating kicked in. I had a distance to drive - about 35 kilometers. The mother was labouring well, and her baby was born about an hour after I, and the other midwife, Clare, arrived.
The parents of this baby do not appear to be wealthy, yet they chose to engage the private services of two midwives, and pay our fees. Clare and I are not the closest independent midwives to their home, yet they chose to employ us. The main reason the mother gave was that we had attended the birth of their first child several years ago when they lived closer to our homes. Clare and I were more than happy to travel the extra distance and be 'with woman' that night.
This particular mother would probably be eligible for a publicly funded homebirth program, if one existed. Yet should she not retain the right to employ a midwife privately?
The loss of a midwife's right to private practice from 1 July next year will impact on families in subtle and personal ways. Clare and I had both been at the forum the previous day when the Health Minister dismissed our practices as being insignificant, and the women who employ us as being unimportant. We reflected on the deeply personal side of private midwifery practice and homebirth, and will remember this and every birth we attend, as something to treasure.
The personal is political. We cannot allow our elected representatives to ignore our rights to self determination, and evidence supporting the safety of the very model of care that independent midwives offer.
Remember, birth is not an illness.
[for notes on the stakeholders forum, please go to the MiPP blog]