Political decisions can and do impact on economic & social inequities faced by women, through policies that shape maternity care. Knowing what we now know, to continue with the current status quo is to provide less than optimal maternity care to the childbearing women of Australia.
The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce is undertaking a program of work that considers how the MBS can be aligned with contemporary clinical evidence and practice to improve health outcomes for Australians. Throughout the review process, based on extensive group discussions, data and literature reviews, consumer feedback, and stakeholder representation, several consistent themes became apparent.
The four themes identified for Maternity Care are:
- There is overwhelming evidence that midwifery continuity of care results in outstanding clinical, financial and consumer satisfaction outcomes that benefit families and the community;
- Across Australia, less than 10 per cent of women can access continuity of midwifery care, despite strong demand. Significant barriers currently prevent consumer access to MBS-rebated midwifery continuity of care in Australia, despite the benefits associated with the model. These barriers include legislative, regulatory and insurance impediments;
- “Bundled payment” funding models may more appropriately reflect the model and increase the uptake of midwifery continuity of care in Australia. This funding model would also be simpler for consumers, as would a single rebate provided for their maternity care;
- Optimal maternity care requires cooperation between care providers. There is compelling evidence that continuity of care by a known midwife results in optimal outcomes for a woman and baby. However, there will always be a scenario whereby collaboration between clinicians is required to ensure the best outcome.
These themes are relevant not just to the MBS Review report, but also to the current challenges and future directions of maternity care in Australia and are very relevant to the National Strategic Approach to Maternity Services (NSAMS) Framework the Australian Government is currently developing.
It would be remiss and possibly negligent not to consider the MBS Review Report when drafting the NSAMS Framework.
The reports can be found at:
- Report from the Participating Midwife Reference Group Report from the Participating Midwife Reference Group
- National Strategic Approach to Maternity Services http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/pacd-pdb-maternity