Monday, June 7, 2010

"not for the faint-hearted"

Private midwifery practice is reaching a watershed. Many midwives who have in the past practised privately, providing a vital professional service for women who want to protect and work in harmony with their bodies' natural processes in birthing, are quitting.

Midwives who are continuing are arranging insurance policies that will comply with the new laws (NRAS). The cost of insurance will be passed on to the consumers. Midwives are likely soon to be less available and more expensive.

This may sound pessimistic when the spin from the Health department is that "Private midwives to be covered by insurance".

Health Minister Roxon is reported as saying "This will make a real difference to expectant mums, who can now elect to see a private midwife who will have government-subsidised insurance and, from November 1, have the cost of those services covered by Medicare," Health Minister Nicola Roxon said.

The government-subsidised insurance covers midwives attending birth privately in a hospital. At present we know of no hospital that is willing to extend visiting access to midwives. We will be interested to know of developments in this direction.

Details of the government-subsidised insurance, and links, are at the mipp blog.

The second insurance option, called 'Mediprotect' and available through insurance agency VERO, provides cover for private midwifery services in pregnancy and postnatally, EXCLUDING birth.

A letter from the Victorian branch of the nurses and midwives union, ANF, received by a member today, informs us that the ANF Vic members insurance policy is also with VERO. VERY interesting. To date ANF Vic has responded negatively to requests from members to find an insurance policy that also covers private midwifery services in pregnancy and postnatally, EXCLUDING birth.

Back to the title of this post, "Not for the faint-hearted."

There are a number of midwives in private practice who are currently awaiting formal hearings by the statutory body, into complaints about their professional practices. One well known midwife in a rural Victorian setting has, a couple of days ago, had her registration suspended pending a hearing.

It appears that there is an escalation in the number of complaints that are being made about private midwives.

The mandatory reporting requirements of the new NRAS define notifiable conduct as (the usual impairments, sexual misconduct, ...) and
"(d) placed the public at risk of harm because the practitioner has practiced the profession in a way that constitutes a significant departure from accepted professional standards."

We midwives must be prepared to gather credible evidence and define accepted professional standards. It doesn't say "in the local hospital" or even "according to the professional body".

Midwives in private practice stand out like sore thumbs, and can expect to be reported.

We can also report. Can our community accept midwifery that results in 50% of primipara having caesarean surgery, with the subsequent increased risk to the mother and future children?

There is a huge theory-practice gap. Everyone involved in education knows that. We have to use that theory-practice gap to declare what is acceptable, and what's not. We have to be prepared to question what we see and hear, gather information, and write reports to the Board. Even if they are dismissed, the concerns that we all talk about need to be put on the record.


  1. "It appears that there is an escalation in the number of complaints that are being made about private midwives" - are these complaints coming from parents, from the consumers of midwifery services - or from jealous, bullying obstetricians?

  2. I have not heard of complaints from parents, although of course a person who is dissatisfied with any professional service is able and encouraged to ask the statutory body to investigate. The complaints seem to be coming from hospitals, and other registered professionals, some of whom have not had first hand involvement in the cases.


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