Page 2465 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 29 June 2005

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The ACT government recognises that pregnancy and birth are transforming life events for women and their families. The ACT, I am proud to say, has a wide range of high-quality maternity services available to support women during this important time in their lives. These services range from the tertiary level care at the Canberra Hospital for high risk and emergency situations to the one-to-one midwifery care offered through the Canberra midwifery program.

Continuous quality improvement is now an accepted part of the health system. ACT Health has arranged the mechanisms to gain consumer and stakeholder feedback on services, including maternity services. The government welcomes any processes that contribute to an increased awareness and understanding of the issues that arise from consumers and other people with an interest in how the system operates. The government has welcomed the inquiry of the standing committee on health into maternity services and is pleased to have an opportunity to respond to the standing committee’s report, A pregnant pause: the future of maternity services in the ACT.

In developing its response to pregnant pause, the government is considering the recommendations of the report in the context of, firstly, stakeholder submissions to the inquiry, stakeholder responses to the pregnant pause report, and, importantly, the current environment for maternity services provision in the ACT and Australia. One of the reasons the government’s response has been delayed is that it has wanted to look closely at the recommendations of the report and the submissions and at the same time look at what other states and territories have been doing.

In December last year the Northern Territory, for example, announced a package of initiatives that the ACT government is currently examining. The Queensland government is currently consulting with the community about the recently completed independent review of Queensland maternity services entitled Rebirthing. The review developed a number of principles for maternity care in Queensland and made specific recommendations for improving the maternity services system. It is my view as minister that it is important that we take these developments into account in our own response to pregnant pause.

At the same time as the government has been developing its response to pregnant pause, it has also been working on a number of other maternity services initiatives. A key area of activity at present is the project of upgrading the antenatal shared care guidelines in consultation with stakeholders. This project has just begun and will be completed in the coming months.

These guidelines were released in September last year and were the culmination of a significant amount of work on the part of GPs, obstetricians, midwives and consumer representatives. These guidelines mean that the provision of shared care is now consistent across the ACT and help to make it simpler for women, GPs and antenatal clinics to work together. Since the release of the guidelines, GPs and other service providers have been encouraged to provide feedback on them. This feedback, along with other consumer input, will be incorporated into the updated guidelines.

Another area of work for the government has been its participation since July 2004 in an Australian Health Ministers Advisory Committee working group that is considering

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