The recent coverage of the tragic newborn deaths at Blacktown Hospital in outer Sydney brings the evolving crisis in obstetric care in Australia into sharp relief.
Pressures on the capacity of this hospital to manage the numbers and complexities of maternity patients in the district could soon be seen in every public hospital throughout the country.
The issue of adequate resourcing for maternity services in Australia is far reaching and clearly demonstrates the effects of long standing undervaluing and resourcing of women’s health services by the Federal Government and the follow on effect this has in overstretched public hospitals.
Inadequate, frozen and non indexed Medicare rebates have affected access to specialist women’s health services in the community. In addition, rising private health insurance premiums have seen many patients opt out of cover and pregnancy is excluded in all but the most expensive of policies. Up to 50% of spontaneous pregnancies in Australia are unplanned, and this all adds up to less and less expectant mothers going outside the ‘free’ public system.
This puts enormous pressure on a public system that was not designed nor properly funded to manage this volume of patients.
Private hospitals are closing down maternity services, consultant obstetricans are no longer able to support regional and rural areas, and more and more mothers are trying to access limited services. This is placing more young lives at risk.
The only factor preventing more women accessing private obstetric care is the underfunding of women’s health, due to long term inadequate rebates from both Medicare and private health insurance funds.
Australia needs BOTH public and private obstetric sectors , adequately funded, to survive and thrive. It should be a balanced partnership that meets the burden of care provision for our current population and into the future.
NASOG has provided feedback and suggestions to the Federal Government on the support needed to ensure the future of well supported obstetric care in Australia.
We ask Minister Hunt, his State colleagues and the private health insurers to waste no more time and address the funding of all maternity services so there are no more avoidable tragedies.