Page 1903 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 5 May 2009

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going wrong are low, but when they do go wrong the hit financially is high. That is the reason that there is no opportunity for insurance coverage in the private system at the moment.

We have been looking because we would like to insure our community midwives so that they are covered if they are attending a woman who home births, but we have been unable to as well. Certainly in the private, independent midwifery area, whilst we are not looking to cover the field in that regard, we are looking at how we work with our own work force. But even that comes with a significant cost—in excess of a million dollars a year to cover our own work force just for attending an accidental home birth, not even a planned home birth with an independent midwife. We are not even at the point of looking at that because of the cost involved.

MR SPEAKER: Ms Bresnan, a supplementary question?

MS BRESNAN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Given that that is the case, is it the ACT government’s intention to see both independent and government employed midwives providing homebirths in the future?

MS GALLAGHER: I have to say that in regard to independent midwives the government is certainly not considering moving in to provide insurance to that profession. In relation to our community midwives, there are, I know, within women who are pregnant at the moment and indeed women who have had babies, a proportion of that group that would like to birth at home with the support of the community midwives program.

That is something that we are not philosophically opposed to, but it is something that comes with risk to government and we have to work through all of those risks. At the moment, even to insure a midwife for an unplanned homebirth would cost the ACT taxpayer $1 million a year. They are the challenges—particularly when our budget is facing the pressures that it is at the moment—of changing our policy in regard to this.

We are working with the community midwives program to look at it. Overall, it provides an excellent service. Of all the letters I get about the health system in thanks for the health system, the majority come from the community midwife program. So we understand that women like that continuity of care. They like being cared for in their home.

There is a proportion of them who would like to birth at home in a planned way, but at the moment, with the constraints on us and the lack of insurance availability, it is just something that we are finding it very difficult to work through.

Distinguished visitor

MR SPEAKER: Members, I draw your attention to the presence of Ms Karin MacDonald, a former member of the Legislative Assembly, in the gallery today. I welcome her to the Assembly.

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