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An assurance of support for mum and bub

Federal government strikes deal to give midwives professional indemnity insurance.

For the first time in more than seven years, midwives will be able to purchase professional indemnity insurance, under a deal struck by the federal government with a private company.

As a result of this and under major reforms legislated in March this year, from November 1 midwives will now be able to prescribe medicines covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and order procedures covered by the Medicare Benefits Schedule.

Medicare funded midwives will be able to work in practices in the community, with other midwives, with doctors and with allied health professionals as well as in hospitals to offer more women the choice of having one-to-one care from a known midwife throughout their pregnancy, labour, birth and early parenting.

Scientific evidence demonstrates that when women with normal pregnancies receive continuity of care from known midwives they are better supported, more satisfied with their care, require fewer epidurals and episiotomies, have more normal births and fewer babies dying under 24 weeks, being underweight or needing resuscitation or admission to a neonatal intensive care unit.

“We know that women and their babies experience measurable benefits from one-to- one care from a midwife,” said Associate Professor Jenny Gamble President of the Australian College of Midwives.

“But midwives can’t take up this historic opportunity to provide Medicare services without professional indemnity insurance, which has not been available since 2002. That’s why we’re excited about the federal government’s moves to make indemnity accessible again”

Making the announcement on International Midwives Day, federal health minister Nicola Roxon said indemnity insurance would be available to privately practising midwives through Medical Insurance Group Australia.

“This is the first time since 2002 that midwives can purchase professional indemnity insurance,” she said.

“This is an important step for Australia’s midwives. It is also an important step for Australian women and their families.”

The deal will see the insurer covering claims up to $100,000, the federal government pay for 80 cents in the dollar for claims above $100,000 and up to $2 million and the federal government paying all of any claims above $2 million. The policies will cover pregnancy and postnatal care in the community, and labour and birth care in a clinical setting.

ACM is disappointed that the policy won’t include cover for midwives providing professional care to women who choose to give birth at home. An exemption from the requirement to hold indemnity has been agreed by ministers responsible for the national registration scheme.

This will allow midwives to continue providing care for planned homebirth for the next two years, but ultimately a permanent solution will need to be found, Gamble said.

A report released by independent organisation Save the Children highlighted the need for government’s to further invest in all midwives, according to the ACM. It’s new State of the World’s

Mothers report found that Australia had moved to second place in the Mother’s Index, however said there was still more work to be done.

“It would be great if every pregnant mother had access to a midwife or doctor and every sick child had the option to see a doctor in a clinic, but in developing countries around the world, and even in Australia, that is not the reality,” said Dr Annie Pettitt, child rights specialist at Save the Children.

“The good news is, with relatively modest investments in basic training, supervision and support, female front-line health workers can promote and deliver low-cost, proven health interventions that can save millions of children each year.”

Even in a developed country such as Australia, there is an identified shortfall of almost 2,000 midwives, said Pettitt. “That shortfall is more pronounced in remote and rural areas with indigenous women and babies much more likely to die during and after pregnancy.”

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