During this past week a number of key stakeholder groups were brought together by the Department of Health to reignite the discussions around the Future of Private Obstetrics in Australia.

From the Government perspective there is a strong need to take increasing pressure off the public health maternity units by facilitating women’s access to the private system.

Aside from the Government representatives, attendees included NASOG, RANZCOG, the AMA and other representative doctors’ groups as well as Private Healthcare Australia and the Australian Private Hospitals Association. Importantly, the direction of the meeting was one of collaboration and a determination by all parties to reinstate the sustainability of the private obstetrics system in Australia.

NASOG’s proposal to restructure MBS rebates to help direct more women back to the private system was the key topic of discussion at the meeting.

The approach is aimed at directly targeting those 46% of women who have an initial consultation with an obstetrician but then decide not to proceed with private obstetric care.

Our proposed solution places no obligation on any individual practitioner to change the way they practice or bill patients, unless they choose to do so.

For those who are seeing falling numbers of patients, or are located in an area where more patients are attending public maternity units, the potential to attract more women to your practice is significant. In concept, by initiating the proposed system, doctors would charge a fee that would attract larger rebates leading, ideally, to little or no patient out of pocket costs.

But if you are satisfied with the status quo and feel the current system is working well for you and your patients, there is no need to make any change to the way you practice.

A key part of the NASOG proposal is that it does not involve signing contracts with health funds or hospitals and your autonomy would be preserved at all times.

This week’s meeting finished very favourably, with all stakeholders committing to working together and coming back to the group with additional feedback and data if they are able to provide it.

All parties acknowledge that we are facing a genuine crisis in private obstetrics, and if it is not addressed, there is significant potential to for things to spiral over time into a broader crisis in the provision of women’s health nationally.

NASOG is determined to make a real difference to private obstetrics in Australia and secure a sustainable career for existing and future members.

This a key time to gather the support of the profession so please let your colleagues know that they can help by becoming a full member or supporter of NASOG. The more members we have, the louder our voice becomes and the more impact we can have on policy outcomes.

A/Prof Gino Pecoraro

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