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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (8 August) . . Page.. 2555 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Not surprisingly, GPs would be knocking on our door saying, "If you are going to facilitate the existence in the marketplace of these independent midwives, then surely GPs have at least as good a claim to the largesse of government to ensure that we also are able to deliver babies." That raises issues of equity.

The message we want to get to midwives and to the community today is that we are not turning our backs on independent midwives; that we value the role that they may play in the ACT health system; that they have a service to perform which some women in the ACT seek; and that we will see whether it is possible, within the constraints that exist on government, to deliver what they seek.

MS TUCKER (12.23): I am surprised the debate got as heated as it did. It appears as though no-one is going to support the motion anyway. It is obviously very important that this Assembly debate this issue at this point. The bottom line is that if something does not happen this month we may well not have independent midwives practising in Canberra.

I am pleased to hear that Mr Moore is working on the national level to address this problem, and I hope that it is resolved. This motion is about what is going to happen in the next month. We have not said in this motion that it requires subsidisation, but it may well do. I think I have made the point pretty clearly that the cost of that would be less than the cost of the births that would have to be carried out in the hospital.

I must correct one thing Mr Moore said. He said, "This is just about home birth." It is not just about home birth. Independent practising midwives support women who, for one reason or another, feel very insecure and unhappy about the hospital scene and employ an independent midwife so they have continuity of carer. That midwife obviously does not have visiting rights when the woman is in hospital or the birth centre, but that independent practising midwife can be there with the woman as an advocate. Independent midwives are also used in that way, and there is a cost saving as well as a quality issue.

It was a bit confused, but Mr Moore seemed to be saying that you cannot have subsidy unless you are sure that what is happening is safe. I do not understand that argument. Independent practising midwives in Canberra support women who choose home birth, and I have never heard the minister say in this place that something unsafe is happening. I understood that it was accepted that independent practising midwives were doing a useful thing in our community, giving women the support they choose when they choose to have their baby at home. That is already the case. We have that practice now in the ACT. As I have just explained, it is possible for the midwife to work not just with the birth but with the woman. It is a very important part of choice for women in Canberra. We are very concerned when we get to a situation we are in today, when we can see the potential for us not to have that choice anymore in the ACT.

Mr Moore also said that there is no solid evidence that no insurance is available. My understanding of the situation today is that the College of Midwives have had an offer, but it is $15,000. The previous premium was $1,900, so it is a question of affordability, which I put in my motion. So the motion is not just about professional indemnity. That would be quite simplistic, wouldn't it? Clearly, if you have the money and you can pay,

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