Wednesday, 16 October 2019
Medical and Midwife Indemnity Legislation Amendment Bill 2019; Second Reading
I rise to support the Medical and Midwife Indemnity Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 and the amendment moved by the shadow health minister. This issue did have its start in the major market failure that occurred in 2002 and which impacted midwifery indemnity insurance. Since then, various reviews have determined a way forward. I note the involvement of stakeholders like the College of Midwives, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and the Australian Medical Association, who are all supporting the fact that there is now action on this issue. I thank them for engaging in the process; I know it has been a long one.
There are two unresolved issues in the midwifery indemnity insurance area. They both have an impact on midwives and, therefore, on women who seek to had a midwife at their birth and in particular at a homebirth. In my electorate of Macquarie a significant number of families choose to have a homebirth. That is their preferred option. The first unresolved issue is the lack of indemnity insurance for midwives who are doing homebirths. Midwives delivered both of my children. I didn't choose to have a homebirth, but we need to respect the right of women who want to go down that path and ensure that they have the support they need to do that, and that means having access to midwives. When midwives can't access insurance, the process becomes harder and riskier. That may well happen if the current exemption expires and there is no further action on it.
In Australia about 0.3 per cent of births are planned homebirths. That compares with two or three per cent in Britain, up to five per cent in New Zealand and around 13 per cent in the Netherlands. That shows that, where there is support, there are women who choose this option—women like Aimee Sing, a consumer advocate with Homebirth Access Sydney and a part of the Blue Mountains homebirth community. She is a fierce advocate for this matter. She is keen to see any barriers to women choosing a homebirth—if that is their preference—come down.
I also note that there have been calls recently from midwives and homebirthing groups for a Medicare rebate to be applied to homebirths. The minister has advised that the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce will submit its findings on that matter before the end of the year. I look forward to that.
I also note that this bill doesn't provide for any choice of insurer for midwifery cover. There is a monopoly; there is just one provider. Again, we are really limiting the choices for midwives. My concern with that is that it flows through to the choices that women have. They need to make decisions that are in their best interests, their family's best interests and their unborn child's best interests.
I urge the government to address those issues. This really is about women having the ability to make choices about where and with whom they give birth. It's a very individual decision. What determines that decision shouldn't be insurance considerations.