Monday, May 26, 2014

Is midwifery practice controlled by the insurer?

what the stork brought!

Is midwifery practice controlled by the insurer?

If the answer is 'yes', is that a problem?

Recently I wrote about indemnity insurance: who benefits?
The insurance company is a business that can only exist if it protects the interests of its shareholders and employees.  In that article I wrote:
It does seem to me that privately practising/independent midwives will 'die out' as soon as the laws mandating indemnity insurance are applied. Because the stakes are so high in childbirth, insurance becomes too expensive except through large corporations (hospitals) or medical defense schemes which cost more than some midwives earn.

Today I would like to focus on a case study, published recently by an insurer of midwives, guiding midwives in the potentially difficult scenario of the client who refuses to follow a midwife's advice.

The case study, titled Terminating the midwife/client relationship (April 2014) suggests that midwives can be insured only if there is zero tolerance for departure, by the midwife or the client, from a very narrow compliance pathway.  That in a situation where the client declines advice from the midwife, the midwife will jump ship - terminate the relationship she has with that client.

I think the advice in this case study is wrong, and MIGA needs to withdraw it.

Many readers will know MIGA is the insurance company that provides professional indemnity insurance (PII) for independent midwives, underwritten by Treasury. It's the only option for midwives who have hospital visiting access.  That's a monopoly.

The big issue of concern in this case study is: "The client signed a service agreement with the midwife agreeing to comply with the requests and recommendations of the midwife."


agreeing [UP FRONT] to comply ... !

Is that reasonable?

What's the point of rhetoric like 'informed decision making' in that sort of relationship?

There is no legal obligation that I know of (outside of this sort of service agreement that has been made by the risk management/legal team of the insurer) to ask a woman to sign over her rights, particularly the right of refusal, which is a human right. 

Midwives practising privately, who are planning to attend homebirth, are required by NMBA to have a statement signed by the client that she understands there is no PII for homebirth with a midwife.

The relevant provisions of the National Law and the Board’s requirements are:
Section 284(1)(b) informed consent has been given by the woman in relation to whom the midwife is practising private midwifery
Informed consent must be given by the woman who is the client of the midwife who is in private practice.  Informed consent is defined specifically as written consent given by a woman after she has been given a written statement by a midwife that includes:
·        a statement that appropriate PII arrangements will not be in force in relation to the midwife’s practice of private midwifery in attending a homebirth, and
·        any other information required by the Board.
  [Guidelines for professional indemnity insurance arrangements for midwives]

The case study is based on a scenario in which the midwife believes her ability to care safely for the woman and her baby has been irretrievably compromised, because the woman, now ten days past her 'due date', declines consultation with and review by a doctor/ hospital antenatal clinic.

I want to express surprise at this scenario, and I realise that the MIGA team who prepared this case study probably sent it to one of the midwives insured with them for checking and review.  That thought only adds to my sense of concern!  The scenario presented is hardly a decision point that could be the cause of irretrievable compromise to the relationship.  Most privately practising midwives would have experienced this scenario many times.  The clinical scenario described in the case study is certainly a point for discussion and accurate documentation, but in my mind it would be unthinkable to abandon the woman at that point, on such flimsy grounds.

The case study mentions the ACM guidelines which list post-term pregnancy (7.1.22)  as >42 weeks (not 41+3), category B - 'consult' - which may be with another midwife. The guidelines have a guiding principle of informed choice (3.2.2), stating that "The woman is free to accept of reject any procedure or advice".

Notions of a woman's right to decline, and to make informed decisions in any professional care situations are well established.  The midwifery profession cannot provide safe professional services for women if such blatant and uninformed control is delegated to the insurer, whose primary interest may not be the safety and wellbeing of mother and child.  The scenario described in this particular case study could very easily leave a woman feeling that she has no option than to 'free birth', without any professional attendance.

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