Health Ministers Agree to Undermine Collaborative Care Arrangements and Risk Patient Safety

10 Aug 2012

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that Australia’s Health Ministers have compromised patient care and safety by agreeing to undermine collaborative care arrangements between medical practitioners and midwives.

The Communiqué from today’s Standing Council on Health states that: “The Commonwealth agreed to vary the determination on collaborative arrangements between midwives and hospital and health services.”

Dr Hambleton said that the AMA strongly opposes this dangerous and unexpected decision.

“There has been no consultation on this serious about-turn on an important policy that took years to implement,” Dr Hambleton said.

“The collaborative care arrangements were carefully devised and agreed with the relevant health professional groups in the best interests of patient safety and team-based coordinated care.

“Under the current process, the private arrangements mirror those in the public hospital sector, where the entire medical, nursing and midwifery team works together and understands the roles and responsibilities for maternity care.

“The current arrangements already allow for midwives to have collaborative arrangements with a medical practitioner employed or engaged by a hospital authority and authorised by the hospital authority to participate in a collaborative arrangement.

“If the Commonwealth proceeds with today’s decision, it will be essentially allowing independent practice by a midwife.

“Does this now mean that, should a delivery became complicated, would the midwife have to transfer the care of the mother and baby to a hospital administrator instead of a highly skilled medical practitioner?

“This change not only risks safe patient care, it is unnecessary. When the collaborative care arrangements were being developed, it was agreed that the midwife could have an agreement with a doctor in a hospital, who would ensure appropriate care arrangements were in place.

“This decision is transferring sensitive patient care and management from a doctor to a bureaucrat. It must not proceed.”

In 2009, the then Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, assured the Senate Community Affairs Committee that the current collaborative care arrangements would not preclude collaborative arrangements with a hospital, as long as there was a nominated medical practitioner involved.

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