Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Colalboration gone wrong!

The Australian Government’s $120.5 million Budget package Providing More Choice in Maternity Care – Access to Medicare and PBS for Midwives, promised that Australian women would have
“more choice in maternity care whilst maintaining our strong record of safe, high quality maternity services.” 

The National Maternity Services Plan (the Plan), endorsed by the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference in November 2010, provided governments with a strategic national framework to guide policy and program development.  The plan declares that primary maternity services will be  
woman centred, reflecting the needs of each woman within a safe and sustainable quality system."

Year one of the Plan committed jurisdictions to developing 
“consistent approaches to the provision of clinical privileges within public maternity services, to enable admitting and practice rights for eligible midwives and medical practitioners.”

How is implementation of the Plan progressing?

Midwives report little action or hope of conclusion, on matters to do with provision of clinical privileges for Medicare-eligible midwives within public maternity services, except in Queensland.  Anecdotally we are aware of instances of increasing resistance within some public hospitals to the implementation of programs of clinical privileging for private midwives.

Earlier this week I received an early morning call from a distressed colleague.  Having worked with a woman who was planning homebirth for some hours, this midwife arranged to transfer the woman's care to a major public maternity hospital in Melbourne, where the woman had made a back-up booking.

The midwife, who believes she has had a good relationship with the hospital for many years, was distressed that the doctor who admitted her client refused to accept any verbal hand-over, and rudely walked away when the midwife attempted to carry out a professional conversation with him.

It would appear that efforts are being made within public maternity hospitals to derail any plans to enable admitting and practice rights for eligible midwives.

Within the obstetric community there is a strongly held position that a doctor or midwife who is willing to assist women in 'bad choices' is seen as encouraging 'bad choices'.  Women who have attempted to make arrangements with hospitals to facilitate normal birth in situations of acknowledged complexity, such as twins, breech babies, or even birth after a previous caesarean, have been given no choice.  "If you come here, this is what will happen!"  This is an often repeated scenario in both public and private hospitals.  These women have often sought private midwives to attend them in the relative 'safety' of their own homes.

This post is just skimming the surface of a complex issue.

Collaboration with medical and nursing colleagues, within hospital systems, is a basic expectation in all midwifery. 
Midwives are required, by regulation and by definition, to collaborate. 
“... This care includes preventative measures, the promotion of normal birth, the detection of complications in mother and child, the accessing of medical care or other appropriate assistance (emphasis added) and the carrying out of emergency measures.   ” 
(From ICM Definition of the Midwife, 2011)

Midwives also have an expectation of ethical professional behaviour towards those in our care.  The current Code of Ethics for Midwives lists 'values' - which in themselves describe the standard to which we aspire.  There is no place for bullying and domineering behaviours in midwifery.

1. Midwives value quality midwifery care for each woman and her infant(s).
2. Midwives value respect and kindness for self and others.
3. Midwives value the diversity of people.
4. Midwives value access to quality midwifery care for each woman and her infant(s).
5. Midwives value informed decision making.
6. Midwives value a culture of safety in midwifery care.
7. Midwives value ethical management of information.
8. Midwives value a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable environment promoting health and wellbeing.
 (From Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia)

Midwives need a system that recognises us and treats us fairly.

We call on midwives to continue to stand in partnership with women, demanding equity and fairness in all maternity services provided by our governments - federal and state. Collaboration requires both parties to participate, the hospital and/or doctor, as well as the midwife.  There is no such thing as one-way collaboration.  Midwives are committed to the wellbeing and safety of mothers and babies in our care, and it is our duty to demand that the health care systems support us in achieving this goal.

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