Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 4412..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
consideration. But it is premature and it is speculation at this stage, because no decision has been made about further efficiency measures.
DR FOSKEY: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Health. It concerns progress towards establishing a homebirth service in the ACT. I quote what Mr Stanhope, who was then the Labor health minister, said on 10 December 2002, when he expressed government support for insurance for midwives. It says:
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.
Since December 2004 the Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services has contracted midwives to provide homebirth services in Alice Springs and Darwin. Clearly they have found a way to resolve the insurance issues around homebirth. Minister, in answer to a question from Mrs Burke on 17 March 2005, you indicated that you had been talking to your Northern Territory counterpart about developments there. Given these commitments and developments, what is the government's progress towards establishing a homebirth service for women in the ACT? In what way has the Northern Territory experience in homebirth insurance solutions been considered?
MR CORBELL: I thank Dr Foskey for the question. There has been no change in the current policy as it affects homebirths and insurance coverage for homebirths here in the ACT. As Dr Foskey has outlined, the previous Minister for Health, Mr Stanhope, was very proactive on this issue in trying to ensure that, if at all possible, private midwives were able to get the insurance cover they needed to be able to practise in the home. Regrettably, there is no private insurance body prepared to provide cover in those circumstances. The government was very proactive on that issue and went as far as sending representatives of the ACT Insurance Authority to London to speak with all the insurers represented in London, which is the worldwide base for insurance. They were unable to find any company prepared to offer insurance for midwives in private practice. So, regrettably, there are not many options open to the government with regard to private midwives.
In relation to midwives employed by the public sector, at this stage the government's insurance policies do not cover regular homebirths that are aided by public sector midwives. We have protocols in place whereby homebirths can be conducted in an emergency by a public sector midwife but the standard protocol is that, wherever possible, the woman going into labour should seek to go to either the birthing centre or one of the public hospitals to be assisted by a midwife in that setting. We have insurance cover for those practices.
The Northern Territory government has chosen to self-insure. Given the circumstances in the Northern Territory, with acute work force shortages and many remote and regional centres, they have obviously taken the decision that, on balance, it is in their interests to provide the assistance of a midwife, particularly where a hospital setting is not viable or available. They have chosen to self-insure.