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Ministers soften stance on collaborative arrangements

Midwives have praised a decision by Australia’s health ministers to extend collaborative arrangements to include hospitals and health services.

The Australian College of Midwives has welcomed the move by the Standing Council on Health on Friday as a long-fought win for private midwives.

“Midwives for the past two years, in good faith, have sought collaborative arrangements with obstetricians, with only a couple being successful in the entire country,” said the President of the Australian College of Midwives, Sue Kruske.

“Some midwives have written to every obstetrician in the state they live in seeking a collaborative arrangement, only to have either no response or negative responses.”

Kruske said the federal government has honoured a commitment by the former Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon to change the determination if doctors were reluctant to enter into arrangements.

“The Federal Health Minister has recognised that the current arrangements are not working and been true to the undertaking given in 2010, one the AMA was fully aware of,” said Kruske.

The ACM dismissed claims that the AMA had not been consulted on the changes. Kruske said the issue had been raised at a recent roundtable organised by the Federal Health Minister in June.

"Midwives are committed to collaboration with all health service providers and this variation in the Determination will ensure this can now occur,” she said.

Kruske said midwives will now be able to collaborate with an entire health service team, of which obstetricians are an important part.

“These changes will make sure 100 per cent of midwives can now work in this optimal model of collaboration and hopefully open the doors of hospitals to private midwives through clinical privileging arrangements which to date have been slow," she said.

Kruske said the changes were also a win for women wanting to access Medicare rebates for private midwifery services.

“It is women who have suffered due to the current arrangements. There is misinformation being put out that this change is about homebirth. There are no Medicare rebates for birth at home so changing the Determination will have no impact on midwifery care for homebirth at all," she said.

The Australian Medical Association has opposed the move, labelling the decision “dangerous and unexpected.”

The Friday meeting also agreed to extend the exemption for professional indemnity insurance for private midwives until mid-2015.

Federal and state ministers have asked Western Australia to develop a paper on a longer-term solution to be presented to the next ministerial meeting in November.

The exemption was due to expire in mid-2013.

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