Friday, March 6, 2009


The following advice is from Justine Caines, President of Maternity Coalition, and leader in Homebirth Australia

To find your local Federal Politician, search the AEC website

I suggest you send 2 separate letters. One to

Nicola Roxon
Minister for Health and Ageing
Parliament House

In the letter to your local FEDERAL member you can cut and paste the contents but add in this to your local members letter.

Dear [NAME]

I ask you to represent my concerns to Health Minister, Nicola Roxon and please inform me of the outcome.

[Some suggested paragraphs, particularly for the local members:]

The Maternity Services Review handed down its report on February 21. This report made the 38th inquiry into maternity services since 1985.

I believe the only issue more investigated into is petrol prices. The needs of women and their babies should come before that of vested interest groups.

The Report examines enhancing midwifery practice, which is long overdue. The care of a known midwife from early pregnancy through labour and birth and the early post-natal period has considerable benefits. These benefits can be be measured financially through a reduction in unnecessary surgical birth and other interventions. More subtle but important benefits are increased rates of bonding and breastfeeding, lower rates of post-natal depression and greater satisfaction with the experience of childbirth. This greatly assists a woman entering motherhood.

Unusually the Report does not examine the urgent need to redress obstetric practice in Australia. Many practices currently employed by obstetricians are not based on sound research evidence, but rather custom and practice. This leads to varied outcomes, for example one hospital may have a caesarean section rate of 16% while another of similar size and capacity has a rate of 30%. Maternity outcomes in Australia are based on post-code. There is currently not a ‘bench-mark’ for quality and safety. The cost of maternity care is spiralling out of control. The Medicare Safety-net was established in 2004 to assist Australian families with the cost of health care. In just over 4 years payments made to Obstetricians under the Medicare Benefits Schedule have increased by approximately 300%. Such increases are not sustainable and have the capacity to see the demise of the Medicare Safety-net, something that will impact many Australians.

Private health costs have risen again this week. The cost of maternity care is considerable. Childbirth is the highest volume area of health and accounts for the greatest number of bed stays. Private maternity care is totally anti-competitive. As a taxpayer who funds the Governments 30% rebate on private health insurance premiums I object to a system that is unnecessarily expensive, not based on evidence and gives women no choice but medically dominated services.

The report of the Maternity Services Review states that the Government will not support the costs of private homebirth services under the Medicare Benefits Schedule, nor will they provide indemnity insurance assistance to midwives working in private practice. Midwives in private practice are the only health professionals in Australia currently without indemnity insurance. This is not due to their pracitce, or claims history, it is simply due to the fact that they are small in number. Medical practitioners and their clients currently enjoy indemnity protection at an estimated cost of $500 Million.

There are currently plans to establish a national registration body for health professionals by mid next year. An appropriate requirement for registration is professional indemnity insurance. If midwives in private practice are not assisted, they will be prevented from registering. If they practice will unregistered they face a jail term. If national registration proceeds as planned women choosing homebirth will be unable to access a registered midwife, and essentially the practice will go ‘underground’. It is not acceptable that women are unable to choose the care of a registered midwife to give birth at home. Homebirth is a nationally funded option in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and The Netherlands. I ask that you support a woman’s right to choose where and with whom she gives birth.

I ask you to investigate my concerns and make representations to Health Minister Roxon as a matter if urgency.

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