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Homebirths legal but midwives not indemnified.

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Homebirths legal but midwives not indemnified 09/06/10

Women choosing a homebirth and their midwives will take little comfort from the implementation of the Rudd Government’s professional indemnity insurance cover for practising midwives this week.

“This Government has failed to provide adequate support for practising midwives who are case managing expectant mothers but who are not eligible for professional indemnity to support a mother in a lawful home birth,” said Sharman Stone, Shadow Minister for the Status of Women.

“Practising midwives will have to pay a minimum of $5000 per year for professional indemnity insurance to cover their services in a hospital. They cannot get insurance for home birthing, from 1 July. It also seems unreasonable that midwives should have to pay a minimum of $5000 whether they assist five or 30 births in the hospital.

“Very few midwives would manage 30 patients a year, particularly in rural and regional Australia and many of these patients want to have a homebirth. Midwives will be forced to pass on the additional cost of insurance to their patients.

“There are risks associated with child birth irrespective of the location of the birth. However, according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics from 2005, 601 planned homebirths in Australia were reported nationally, representing 0.2 per cent of all women who

gave birth. It is a very small proportion but it is an important decision for those women.

“A 2008 study of the homebirths of 24,000 women revealed that homebirth is an acceptable option for low-risk women and that it leads to reduced medical interventions. The same data states that planned homebirth is no more dangerous than an in-hospital birth. The rate of infant deaths for homebirths and those giving birth in hospital was similar.

“This government has left women who want a legitimate and lawful homebirth and their midwives having to make the difficult decision of exercising a free choice but without the support of insurance. This is unacceptable and rural women in particular will be forced to consider very long journeys to a hospital when a homebirth could have been a great alternative.

“As child birth support options fade away in rural and regional Australia the Rudd Labor Goverment has lost an opportunity to help women have alternatives which other developed countries take for granted.