Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Report on the Maternity Services Review

The Federal Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, released the much awaited report into maternity services over the weekend.

The Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Rosemary Bryant, led the review and this report is an important step in developing a national plan for maternity services.

The Report makes a series of recommendations in the key areas of:
1. Safety and Quality
2. Access to a Range of Models of Care
3. Inequality of Outcomes and Access
4. Information and Support for Women and their Families
5. The Maternity Workforce
6. Financing Arrangements.

The report recommends that the Australian Government give consideration to providing access to the Medicare Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to appropriately qualified and skilled midwives, working within collaborative team-based models.

This report recognises the importance of information and support for women. Without good information, women do not have options. The report does not refer to "health literacy" as such but the concept is embedded in the recommendations. The report acknowledges the critical role reliable information plays in assisting women to make decisions about their maternity care.

This is consistent with the Interim Report of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission which emphasises the importance of health literacy.

The report is available online as a pdf and as webpages.
Summary of recommendations is available online.

The Review Team received more than 900 submissions from consumers, health professionals, industry groups, researchers, professional organisations and national peak bodies. Submissions included women sharing their birth stories and experience of clinicians and midwives delivering maternity care, examples of existing effective models of care within Australia and internationally, and research papers on many aspects of pregnancy, birthing and postnatal care.

Interestingly, the personal stories of individual women made up 407 of the submissions received. About half of the women contributing to the Review had personally experienced homebirth. This is a much higher proportion than the proportion in the population overall. (Homebirths account for less than 1% of all births in Australia.)

In the media:
The Australian: Midwives seek access to Medicare
MIDWIVES will challenge doctors' financial monopoly over birth and pregnancy after a new government report proposed they be allowed to bill Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for their services.

The Canberra Times: Script-writing seen as new midwife role
Women will receive rebates for services provided by midwives and be able to turn to them for prescriptions if the Federal Government adopts recommendations from a report out today.

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) has welcomed the Report and said it provided a strong way forward for improving access to maternity services in the bush. They released a media statement.
“Families who live and work in rural and remote Australia should be able to access quality healthcare in their local communities without having to wait weeks for an appointment or having to travel hundreds of kilometres to get that care. This report offers the Government an opportunity to start making this vision a reality. RDAA commends the report and looks forward to working closely with the Minister and Government to implement its recommendations.”

The findings and recommendations of this Review will inform the development of the National Maternity Services Plan

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