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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 2457..


MS MacDONALD (continuing):

the report on continuity of care for pregnant women. In that report we noted the excellent work done by the Canberra midwifery program, the CMP. Could you update the Assembly on the developments with the midwifery services offered in the territory?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms MacDonald for her question. She is right: our midwives do a fantastic job. The midwifery services provided in the ACT are first class. Of all the letters I get in my office, I receive at least two a week on the Canberra midwifery program from parents who have used it, saying how excellent it is.

In the last few weeks I have received the demand/analysis report of the CMP which has come out of A Pregnant pause, the report from the Assembly committee, which has shown that there is significant unmet demand for that program in the ACT. You could probably double or triple that program in terms of some of the choices that women want to make and fill it every year. Currently, about 500 women and their partners use the program each year. There are often lengthy waiting lists. If you talk to most people, you have to join the program when you are about five weeks pregnant to get a spot on it.

That demand/analysis has shown that we need to look at how we can reorder the diversity of services within maternity services. This is in the context that our birth numbers will remain largely the same over the next 10 years. We are not going to see an increase in the number of children, although we have seen an increase in the 2004-05 year, with more babies than normal being born, but it is not expected to continue.

A budget of around $23 million is provided to services in this area. I would like to get some advice on how we can shift resources around to expand that program but continue to provide the diversity of services that we need, because we need to maintain all the obstetric services at the Canberra Hospital to respond to those complex and difficult births and allow choice for women to have their children in the delivery suites because there are women like me who choose to go that way rather than through the midwifery program. It is a difficult solution. The demand for the midwifery program is increasing very quickly. The birth numbers are remaining the same. We still need to provide the full range of services across the hospital.

We have established a working group to provide me with advice. I am hopeful that that working group will provide me with that advice by the end of this year. That will allow us to take forward into early next year any changes that we could make to allow parents to have their choice of which way they would like to proceed when they are expecting a baby. We will explore the future options and look at how we can expand some of the services, particularly the services in the CMP.

MS MacDONALD: Mr Speaker, I thank the minister for that update. I have a supplementary question. Minister, could you also update the Assembly on what training is currently available for midwives?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms MacDonald for the supplementary question. That is part of the puzzle which I did not cover in the first answer around the shortage of midwives, not just here but also nationally and internationally, and the fact that, even if we wanted to expand the CMP tomorrow or in the next couple of months, the chances are that we would not have the midwives available to staff that program. Training and retraining is certainly one of the areas we are having to focus on.


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