Page 2464 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 29 June 2005

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register with the program by the fifth week of pregnancy or they will miss out. Many women are not even aware that they are pregnant that early in their pregnancy.

According to pregnant pause, just 6.7 per cent of women giving birth in the ACT have access to the birth centre. This leaves the majority of women with limited choices, either to give birth at home with no support—believe it or not, this is a choice that an alarming number of women are selecting simply because they do want to have a natural birth, so far as possible—or to give birth in a hospital setting under the ultimate care of obstetricians. The unmet demands suggest that a much higher proportion would choose midwifery-led care if it were available.

Recommendation 11 is about establishing a ministerial advisory council on maternal health. This is about giving women and midwives a real voice in the ACT. There is a known reluctance in the medical profession towards community-based midwife-led care and ministers, who are captive to the opinions of health departments and obstetricians, are disempowering women who seek a greater say in the way the maternal health services are provided.

Perhaps the most significant recommendations are concerned with moving away from medically driven maternity services towards community-based midwifery care. For example, recommendations 19 and 20 seek to have maternity services brought out from under the administration of hospitals and the establishment of independent primary birthing units. I understand that these recommendations may have caused some consternation amongst health professionals and administrators. However, I ask that the Assembly take note that these recommendations are strongly evidence-based and reflect the directions in which maternity services are heading in more enlightened jurisdictions.

The final recommendation I would like to highlight is 18. It calls for the ACT government to support tertiary education institutions in offering postgraduate and midwifery education in the ACT. We are facing a shortfall of midwives in the ACT no matter what we do. This will only get worse if we do not increase the supply by offering our own postgraduate midwifery education. I hope that, in responding to this motion, the minister will give us some indication of where the government stands on these recommendations and not just fob this off and give us the prospect of further delay.

I have not addressed the cost effective nature of standalone birthing centres. I want to pre-empt any possible objections that might be raised that this is something the government cannot afford. It is, in fact, something that will be cost effective and will actually reduce costs related to birthing. I just want to make that point before I cease. I know that there are a couple of amendments floating around. Actually, this motion appears to have aroused a deluge of amendments. I foreshadow that I will be tabling an amendment to Mrs Burke’s amendment and Mr Corbell’s amendment, if indeed they get up.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (4.17): I thank Dr Foskey for moving this motion today. I indicate that the government will not be supporting the motion as it is currently worded. However, at the end of my comments, I will be moving an amendment to Dr Foskey’s motion.

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