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Calm not alarm needed in medical indemnity debate.

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Senator Aden Ridgeway Australian Democrats’ Consumer Affairs Spokesperson Senator for NSW

1 July 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/478

Calm Not Alarm Needed in Medical Indemnity Debate

The Australian Democrats today called for calm after obstetricians and other medical professionals threatened to walk off the job after changes to the medical indemnity regime.

Democrats’ Consumer Affairs spokesperson, Senator Aden Ridgeway, said it was important to remember those at risk here are patients - especially expectant mothers.

“If the issue is affordability of medical indemnity insurance, these medical professionals should be directing their anger at the insurance industry not their patients,” Senator Ridgeway said.

“The industry has been so successful in their fear campaign about out-of-control claims that medical professionals and governments believe tort law reform is the only answer.

“Governments all over the country have bent over backwards to accommodate doctors’ concerns.

“However there is still no real evidence that these measures will actually create lower premiums.

“If governments are serious about safer and more effective obstetric care they should be offering similar lifelines to casual and contract midwives - many of whom are still unable to gain any indemnity insurance cover at all.

“This crisis in professional indemnity insurance is also still preventing some universities from being able to offer clinical placements to their students - a compulsory part of midwifery training.

“Availability of professional indemnity insurance for midwives is one positive step governments can take to alleviate this situation.

“More working midwives means less pressure on obstetricians and GPs and it is the most appropriate and cost effective type of health care for women in normal pregnancy and birth.

“Midwives continue their valuable care until around 4-6 weeks after the birth of a child - the kind of care that is not readily available from any doctor or obstetrician,” concluded Senator Ridgeway.

Contact: Liz Willis 0417 410 506