Page 1871 - Week 06 - Thursday, 9 May 2013

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I think that overall everyone in this place would agree that the service and treatment that patients receive in our hospitals and schools—in fact, everywhere there are nurses—are excellent.

The role of nurses has changed dramatically since the first birthday of the ACT. We have seen changes in tools, training and the practice of nursing. It is now no surprise to see a male nurse attending our patients, and there is a much broader scope of practice that dictates the type of care they can provide. In more recent times we have seen a welcome focus on recognising the skills of nurses, and their expanded job description recognises this. New training and qualifications are on offer, and the benefits are clear to see for patients, doctors and other health professionals, as nurses fulfil greater duties.

The Greens have a great understanding of and respect for the role of midwives in the birth process and the importance of allowing a broad range of choices for mothers-to-be. For non-complex needs cases, many parents choose to give birth solely with the support of midwives. The birth centre at TCH offers this option. But there is further demand for a stand-alone, publicly funded birth centre which is not located at an acute hospital site. For this reason there is an independent feasibility study to look at this, and it is well worth having a look at these things in light of the comments that Mr Hanson made. One can only draw a final conclusion when one looks at the studies.

We understand that at least 400 women per year miss out on access to the birth centre, solely because it does not have enough beds. To get a booking in time for your birthing you need to book before you are about 10 weeks pregnant or you miss out. That is a lot of planning ahead and is perhaps not possible for many mothers.

Unfortunately the midwifery program which used to be run from the birth centre, and which allowed people to have home births, is no longer in operation, so a birth centre is the best and most affordable option for most mothers to have a natural birth with little or no intervention.

It is also important to note the important role that midwives play in the postnatal period, when first-time mothers are settling into life with a new baby and important things like breastfeeding, feeding and sleeping patterns and suchlike need particular attention.

There are still some issues to be addressed in the area of midwifery registration and qualifications. I understand that this is a complex area for universities and peak bodies. I trust that these issues will be addressed in time and will allow a broader base for this vital and important service to be tailored to parents’ wishes, choices and, of course, a child’s wellbeing.

Nurses are one of the professions which we rely on heavily, but which are generally underpaid and undervalued—until you suddenly get sick and end up in hospital; then you realise the fantastic role that nurses play and the service you get.

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