Although midwives were granted permission to provide taxpayer-funded maternity care last November as long as they could reach a collaborative agreement with doctors, only a fraction of midwives have been using the scheme.
One midwife, Marie Heath, remarked to the Sydney Morning Herald that the changes do not make midwives accessible to the average Australian woman.
She claimed to have sought collaborative care agreements with ten private doctors – but all refused, claiming their insurance would not cover the collaboration or they were simply too busy.
Without Medicare, Ms Heath explained, midwife services can cost up to $1,500 more than hospital care alone. While she thought the number of women using her services in the southern tablelands would rise as a result of the change, she now has fewer clients than at the same time last year.
“Some are paying out of their own pocket, but they’re being disadvantaged when they should not be,” she told the newspaper.
Ms Heath added: “The reforms are not providing the choice that was their objective.”
Seven months from the introduction of the scheme, only 21 of Australia’s 42,000 registered midwives have enrolled in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and the Medicare benefits schedule.