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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (5 May) . . Page.. 1758..


MS TUCKER: I move:

That the report be noted.

Although it is unusual to table a committee report on a private members' day, the committee has decided to table its report of its inquiry into maternity services today, 5 May, as it is International Midwives Day, as recognised by the International Confederation of Midwives and over 50 nations around the world. The committee undertook this inquiry as for some time there have been concerns about provision of maternity services in Canberra. Most particularly the committee was aware of the situation regarding medical indemnity insurance that precludes independent midwives from working and is causing obstetricians to leave the work force. More generally there have been concerns about the disparity in treatment and outcomes for pregnant women, including the issue of inappropriate intervention.

The committee participated in several consumer forums, some at the Women's Centre for Health Matters in Pearce and one at the Legislative Assembly. We were keen to hear as much as we could from women in Canberra, and the centre at Pearce was child and baby friendly. We did our best to make the Assembly committee room similarly accommodating. The comments made by the women who attended these forums were very informative and I would particularly like to commend and thank those women who had had traumatic experiences but who nevertheless courageously told their stories. We were also very pleased to get positive submissions from women who had had very good experiences.

The committee attended also the sixth international conference on the regulation of nursing and midwifery called Innovations in Regulation, which was held in Melbourne. We also travelled to New Zealand for this inquiry to assess their model of care. There had been overwhelmingly positive feedback received about the model of maternity services there. We were welcomed by the New Zealand government and were able to speak to the college of midwives, consumers, professionals and members of parliament, including the Minister of Health.

The New Zealand model recognises the value of midwife-led care. It does not derogate from the support of the medical system but ensures that all women have access to appropriate antenatal care. Over 73 per cent of women there have midwife-led care and the national home birth rate is between six and 10 per cent. Fifteen per cent of women birth in primary birthing units which provide a non-medicalised environment. Midwives are trained as midwives, not nurse, and the medical insurance scheme does not create barriers to access or practise as is the case in Australia.

It is useful to note that the 1999 Senate Committee report Rocking the Cradle recommended that the federal government establish an independent inquiry into medical indemnity and litigation, to look at alternative approaches to compensation payments. Unfortunately, the government of the day did not support this recommendation. The committee has recommended that the ACT government lobby the federal government to find alternative approaches to medical indemnity including, obviously, looking at the no-fault model that applies in New Zealand.


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