Women and midwives benefit from findings in review of maternity services in Australia; Hannah Dahlen of the Australian College of Midwives describes moves in Australia to reduce inequality in childbirth outcomes and raise midwives' status.

Author:Dahlen, Hannah
 
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On 21 February 2009 the Improving Maternity Services in Australia--The Report of the Maternity Services Review was released. The Review was based upon written submissions (over 900 were received), and six round table forums sought input from a range of key stakeholders.

There are some very positive recommendations for women and midwives that have come from this Report. Key amongst these was the commitment to close the gap on disadvantage for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies in partnership with indigenous people themselves. Maternal and perinatal outcomes remain deeply concerning for indigenous mothers and babies in Australia. Another important recommendation relates to improving the access of rural women to safe, collaborative maternity care as close as possible to where they live.

Nearly 130 maternity units have been closed down in rural remote Australia over the past 10 years, leading to increases in 'roadside births' and distress for women and their families as they are dislocated from their communities and forced to travel huge distances to give birth. Likewise the proposed extension of the national health scheme, and prescribing and ordering rights for midwives, is essential to support the full contribution that midwives can make to maternity care in urban, rural and remote areas. The Australian College of Midwives (ACM)

welcomes the recommendation to ensure that suitable professional indemnity insurance is finally made available to midwives in Australia.

The Report recommends: choice for women, greater role for midwives, better data collection, improved rural access, more collaboration, supported decision-making

  1. Changes to improve choice and availability of a range of models of maternity care for Australian mothers by supporting an expanded role for midwives, including consideration of changes to funding arrangements and support for professional indemnity insurance for midwives.

  2. Changes including an expanded role for midwives to take place within a strong framework of quality and safety and new national cross-professional guidelines to be developed to support collaborative multidisciplinary care in line with best practice, along with a system for advanced midwifery professional requirements.

  3. Improved national data collections and targeted research to support a safety and quality framework and allow the impact of changing models of care to be effectively monitored.

  4. Changes to support the expansion of...

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