Page 2348 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 28 June 2005

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minister please confirm that if a pregnant woman would like to give birth at the birthing centre she must make this decision and register with the centre before she is five weeks pregnant, otherwise she is likely to loose this option because the birthing centre is oversubscribed.

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I thank Dr Foskey for the question. It is true that there are a significant number of women who are keen to use the birthing centre for the birth of their child or children. The birthing centre at the Canberra Hospital provides an alternative, as many members would be aware, to the more conventional birthing options available in the maternity suite area of the Canberra Hospital proper. The birthing centre is staffed by qualified midwives who adopt the lowest interventionist approach as possible. The birthing centre itself is fitted out to provide women and their families with a birthing environment that is as domestic as possible.

It is the case that at times women need to book early to be able to gain access to the centre. There is not a uniform waiting period or, indeed, a uniform booking time but women are encouraged to book as early as possible to have the best chance of accessing these facilities. Obviously, demand for these facilities varies throughout the year and that can have an impact on whether or not the woman is able to access the services of the birthing centre and the midwives who operate it.

DR FOSKEY: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Many women do not know that they are pregnant so early in their pregnancy. Perhaps anyone trying to get pregnant — and hoping to have a birth as close to unassisted as possible—should register with the birthing centre the morning after. Does the minister find this acceptable and what is the government doing about it?

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, it would, of course, be helpful if Dr Foskey actually listened to my answer before reading her pre-prepared supplementary. As I have indicated, the waiting times for bookings do vary and it is the case that women are encouraged to book as early as possible. I acknowledge that women do not necessarily know very early on in their pregnancy that they are actually pregnant. But the ACT government, through ACT Health and, indeed, through the excellent pamphlet put together by, I think, the Women’s Centre for Health Matters about having a baby in the ACT, advises women of the range of options open to them to assist them with the impending birth of their child, and that includes the desirability of contacting the birthing centre, if that is their chosen option, as soon as possible to secure a place in the program.

Since the government has been in office we have increased funding for the birthing centre and, indeed, we now have facilities operating from Calvary Hospital as well as from the major campus at the Canberra Hospital. So we have funding to the program. The government continues to consider other options for expanding the availability of this program. It is a very popular program with women, their partners and their families, and it is one that I am personally strongly supportive of. We certainly continue to provide all the support that we possibly can for this very valuable service.

Environment—grassy woodlands

MR GENTLEMAN: My question is to the Minister for the Environment. A story on the front page of this morning’s Canberra Times reports on a groundbreaking research

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