Victorian Midwives Nursery Uproar - VIC Labor Government must fix legislation now

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We urgently seek action by the Victorian Legislative Council to amend the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Amendment Bill 2018 when it comes to the Legislative Council. The Bill, as proposed,  continues to negatively impact on midwives and mothers and their babies.

Last year, on 13 October 2017, the Australian College of Midwives (ACM) wrote to the Hon Jill Hennessy MP, Minister for Health, to raise concerns that the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Act 2015 had failed to emulate the previous 2012-2016 Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) i.e. include midwives in Special Care Nurseries (SCNs).

ACM requested the Act (2015) be amended in respect of Section 27 to include the term “nurse and / or midwife”.  ACM also highlighted this issue was affecting not only undergraduate trained midwives but also those midwives who used to be nurses but prefer to work with mothers and babies.

On Thursday 6th September the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Amendment Bill was presented to the Victorian Parliament.  This Bill has major implications for midwives who are not also nurses. This arises for those who are educated in an undergraduate program or those midwives who ceased their nursing registration to enable them to fully focus on their passion for providing care to women and newborn babies. Many midwives are registered as Midwives only, so when the wording of a Bill excludes the word ‘midwife’, it excludes midwives from enjoying the same opportunities as other staff who work in Special Care Nursery (SCN) despite being equally qualified to work in the area.

The current Bill which has been passed only allows midwives to work in Special Care Nursery if a nurse is present.

This introduces staffing issues, work health and safety concerns, and inequity amongst staff, in particular if there is only one nurse rostered on the shift – how does she take a meal break?

Most importantly the graduates from an undergraduate degree such as at Australian Catholic University (ACU) are equally, if not more qualified to work in a SCN.  The Bachelor of Midwifery course at ACU has two units (20 credit points) that are SCN specific.  This involves 300 hours of study and 160 hours of placement as a student in a SCN.  The nursing degree at ACU like other universities contains NO neonatal care or placement in SCN. 

Midwives bring important skills to a SCN with their understanding of breastfeeding and the importance of this to the lifespan of an individual.  They understand the antenatal antecedents which have resulted in admission to SCN and have a unique ‘woman centred’ understanding when providing care.  The Midwifery profession is proud of its ability to provide this care to pregnant women, new mothers & families, and newborns (well or sick).

I request that the Amendment Bill states “nurse and /or midwife” with respect to all areas relating to staffing in Special Care Nursery and ask for your support to make this happen.