Thursday, July 2, 2009

Victoria's private midwives

Photo: Midwives met in Camberwell 02 July 2009.

The midwives in this picture represent many years of dedicated professional commitment. Each year we provide expert midwifery services to over 300 women planning homebirth in Victoria, and many others who employ us to accompany them to hospital for birth and continuing on with postnatal care. We, and others, will lose our ability to practise our chosen profession UNLESS the draft legislation is amended.

Some of the women in this picture have recently graduated from the Bachelor of Midwifery university courses. They undertook this study with the purpose of being able to work with women in a primary maternity care model that promotes health. These midwives face the loss of the main practice option to which they have aspired for so long.

Some of the midwives in this picture have been working in their communities providing holistic one-to-one midwifery care for the past decade or more. Women for whom they have attended births - sometimes four or more in the same family - love them for their gentle and generous personal and professional approach. Their families know that these midwives are always ready for a call to attend a labouring woman; that they are constantly acting in a way that enables them to be 'with woman' when the time comes. Their families also rely on them for financial security.

The Report of the Maternity Services Review, and subsequent statements by politicians and obstetricians have made the point that homebirth, and independent midwifery care, is chosen by a very small percentage of Australian birthing women. That's true. The barriers to this option at present are professional, social, and financial. The commentators have gone on, pretty well unchallenged, to insinuate that because the numbers are small they are unimportant! What other minority group in our society can expect such systematic exclusion?

Let's imagine that for some reason, it was decided that self employed (ie independent) GPs (general practitioner doctors) were no longer welcome in our communities. Let's imagine that a powerful lobby group was able to convince the health minister that all primary medical care needed to be provided in *collaborative* services managed by hospitals, with layer upon layer of supervision and oversight. Let's imagine that the local doctors who had been working autonomously in their commuities for decades, seeing people who knew and trusted them, were told they had to be employed in the hospital GP super clinics and hospital emergency departments.

That's what self employed midwives face.

We cannot accept the inequitable treatment that is being dealt to us. No other profession is facing extinction due to unfair legislation that will restrict midwives to working as obsteric assistants in hospitals.

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