The ACT government has developed a 10-year plan to improve maternity services in the territory's public health system, with more than $12 million promised in the upcoming budget to the cause.
Money will go towards workforce planning for midwives, scholarships for dedicated midwives and doctors, an expansion of maternity services in Canberra's north and a scoping study into a residential service for mental health care for new parents.
The plan has also set a target to ensure that at least 50 per cent of women and pregnant people can access midwife-led continuity of care by 2028. Only 30 per cent of patients can access this at the moment.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith unveiled the plan on Friday, saying it was a holistic approach to maternity services.
"This strategy brings together multiple project and implementation plans across national maternity strategies, local reports, and local plans into a single comprehensive public maternity services and systems plan," she said.
"[It] outlines the goals and actions that are required to evolve the public maternity system to better better meet individual needs and the desires of those who are accessing the system.
"It will really help to shape the system to help individuals feel more informed, more empowered and more respected in their public maternity journey."
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Workforce planning will be a key part of the strategy, especially to help with the government's goal to increase continuity of care. This model is when a midwife or a group of midwives provides care to a woman throughout a pregnancy and in the postnatal period.
"The evidence for good health outcomes and maternal satisfaction in continuity of care is strong, and the community has advocated for increased access to this model," the plan said.
"Increasing access to this model will require changes in the development of the workforce, and this will require workforce planning and consultation to ensure the expansion is done appropriately."
A recent workforce plan for nursing and midwifery at Canberra Health Services found that midwives had among the highest number of resignations in nursing over recent years.
This has prompted concerns about a skills mix in the territory's public hospital system as a high portion of those who have resigned have been senior midwives.
Staffing shortages have plagued maternity services across the territory for several years. Midwives and staff warned the government in 2018 that patients' lives were being put at risk due to understaffing and poor management.
This prompted a parliamentary inquiry, which recommended a mandated staffing level for midwives and nurses and that there be a focus on midwife-led care.
Ms Stephen-Smith said the strategy hoped to address some of the recommendations in that report.
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Lucy Bladen has been a journalist at The Canberra Times since 2019. She is an ACT politics and health reporter. Email: email@example.com
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