Queensland midwives rally following unsafe workload audit

Photo supplied: QNMU

In an unprecedented action, Queensland midwives rallied outside Parliament House yesterday calling for urgent state government midwifery funding.

It follows a recent audit of Queensland maternity inpatient wards which found single midwives are being left to care for up to 20 mothers and babies at a time.

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU, ANMF Queensland Branch) and the Australian College of Midwives (ACM), along with the largest employer of endorsed midwives My Midwives are calling for immediate and appropriate state government funding for Queensland midwives and midwife led models of care such as Midwifery Group Practice (MGP).

The state government is yet to commit any of the $42 million allocated for maternity in the June state budget to midwives or midwife led models of care. Funding has been allocated to train GPs in obstetrics medicine and other medical training initiatives.

Photo supplied: QNMU

QNMU Secretary Kate Veach said Queensland was in the midst of a health crisis and midwives were overloaded resulting in unsafe conditions for mothers and babies.

“Midwives are rallying because conditions and workloads in Queensland maternity inpatient wards are unsafe and cannot continue. Queensland’s midwives must be heard and respected.

“We are calling on Health Minister Shannon Fentiman and the State Government to commit appropriate funding to midwives and midwife led models of care now.”

The QNMU, ACM and My Midwives also want the state government to introduce ratios in Queensland Health (QH) maternity inpatient wards, public funding for homebirths and a workforce plan to address chronic understaffing that includes strengthening midwifery leadership at all levels.

Findings released this month revealed workloads and conditions in Queensland maternity inpatient wards are increasingly unsafe and unacceptable.

The QNMU Count the Babies (CtB) safety audit found almost 50% of midwives who participated said mothers in their care had complex needs and required high levels of care. The audit was conducted across 47 hospitals on 5 May and findings sent to Queensland Health (QH) and the federal government.

“This simply is not safe. Midwives are deeply concerned for the wellbeing of Queensland mothers, babies and their colleagues who are experiencing unsafe workloads and burn out,” Ms Veach said.

QNMU member and midwife Ashleigh Sullivan said Queensland midwives could not be expected to continue under existing dangerous workloads.

“Midwives are worried about those in their care and they’re exhausted and burnt out due to dangerous workloads. Queensland mothers, babies and midwives deserve better.”

“Queensland midwives have repeatedly told health authorities, politicians and the media that conditions in Queensland maternity wards are not safe. We’re calling on the state government to commit appropriate funding for midwives and midwife led models of care in Queensland.”

Queensland women were also experiencing difficulty accessing midwifery services close to home. Midwives have met with Members of Parliament in Townsville, Rockhampton and Bundaberg to call for urgent funding.

Funding for MGP would allow women to birth safely where they live, ACM Chief Midwife Alison Weatherstone said. “Queensland women aren’t currently able to consistently access maternity care close to home. They deserve choice, continuity of care and services where they live,” she said.

The QNMU and ACM are also calling for the introduction of a Queensland Chief Midwife and a Commonwealth Chief Midwife to hear and progress midwifery issues.

“Just as Chief Medical Officers act as the professional leads for medical issues impacting Queensland and Australia, Chief Midwives would provide leadership to highlight and advance important midwifery issues and concerns,” Ms Veach said.  

“It’s high time midwives were heard on issues impacting women, babies and this invaluable workforce.”

The QNMU, ACM, My Midwives and midwives will meet with Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman tomorrow. The outcome of this meeting will determine potential further unified action to campaign for midwifery funding.

For the full CTB findings and asks, which include addressing midwives’ psychosocial safety, scope of practice, contemporary midwifery practice and career pathways to support First Nations midwives, visit www.qnmu.org.au/CountTheBabies

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