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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4095..


MR CORBELL: No, because it was done consistently with a disallowable instrument.

Maternity services

MS TUCKER: My question is to Jon Stanhope as Minister for Health. Minister, in a useful meeting with officers from your department, Treasury and the insurance authority last month, your officers stated that the maternity services planning committee would be reconvened as soon as possible and would, among other things, focus on the mentoring model for developing capacity to offer home birth and to focus on the appropriate model of care for birthing. I understand that to date no meeting has been called. Given that this was promised as soon as possible, when will this meeting be called?

MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Ms Tucker, for the question, and I acknowledge your continuing interest in the issue of home birth. I have the same advice as you. I am not quite sure whether a meeting has been scheduled or when it will be held. The issue continues to be the non-availability of any reinsurance cover for home birth in the ACT. This is the issue that has been the stumbling block. I remain highly cynical and sceptical about that.

I share your view that, as I understand it, there has not been a single adverse incident or claim in a number of years of practice by home birth practitioners in the ACT, and yet our insurance industry in its cynicism has made an across-the-board decision or ruling to simply not insure midwives for home births at all. We have actively sought reinsurance cover to allow a home birthing system to be developed in the ACT. It has always been my desire and my intention to see home birth as an option for women in the ACT. I am not satisfied with the responses that we have received. We continue to pursue reasons and justifications and possibilities in relation to insurance and reinsurance.

We are not making any headway. Progress has been slow. We continue to make representations. I have not had a recent update on that, but I assume that we continue to have absolutely no positive responses from anywhere within the insurance industry. We have actually pursued models that we know apply elsewhere, particularly in Western Australia.

It occurred to us that, if there is a home birth service operating on essentially the same model as applies here in the ACT, then surely there is reinsurance available. Surely there is an insurance company providing that sort of support in those other jurisdictions that do provide a home birth service. But it transpires, we believe-and, of course, this was a challenge to us-that Western Australia perhaps runs the service without insurance. I have to say that, at this stage, that is not a risk I am prepared to take in relation to the size and quantum of insurance claims that we know can result from catastrophic injury at birth-accepting that there has never been a significant claim in relation to home births in the ACT.

I am frustrated by this, but the ACT's position remains as it is-that we are actively seeking to pursue the availability of home birth for women in the ACT wishing a home birth, a system that I would have been quite prepared to see run from Canberra Hospital. But at this stage this has stalled for want of insurance. I am aware that a meeting was, as


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