Victorian Government is responding to the maternity care crisis

On July 9th 2021, Health Minister, Martin Foley announced 13 million dollars in funding for a 175 additional staff across Victoria, Australia to augment the public maternity services. According to ‘The Canberra Times‘, Foley stated that additional funding for the Royal Women’s hospital will be provided as an extra 1,423 births that are expected between April and August 2021.

“This year our public maternity services have been in crisis. I’m glad the Victorian Government is finally responding, after so many midwives, mums and the Greens have raised the alarm.”

– Ellen Sandell

After the announcement, The Victorian Greens expressed support at a press release on their website. Greens MP, Ellen Sandell, who has been campaigning to address the maternity care crisis in Victoria welcomed the funding. She said “I welcome the government’s response to our campaign with this additional much-needed funding for additional midwives and extra funding for the Royal Women’s hospital. The maternity health sector continues to face challenges and we hope this extra funding is just the first step.”

She announced the good news on her Twitter on July 9th, calling “Yay! In response to pressure we (&others) have been applying recently, Victoria Government just announced $13m for more midwives & money for @thewomens for some new important programs. Thank you to all midwives who have spoken up. It’s only a start, but finally, Gov responding #springst” 

Victorian Green’s Campaign 

Greens MP ,Ellen Sandell, has been pressuring the government to take action for the public maternity services with her campaign in 2021. According to Greens’ press release, her office has been “inundated with stories from mums and midwives detailing the impact of lack of beds and staff”.

According to Ellen Sandell’s website, the campaign has successfully obtained 3,200+ petition signatures from mums, parents, and midwives calling for more funding and solutions. Moreover, Sandell has reached out to the Health Minister outlining the concerns and proposing solutions about the lack of resources in public maternity hospitals in Victoria.

Unexpected baby boom?

The Health Minister has stated that the global pandemic created an unanticipated baby boom and the crisis in maternity care is linked with the “baby COVID boom”. According to Canberra Times, one regional healthcare service reported a fifty one percent increase in deliveries in 2021.

However, The Age reported that the Royal Women’s Hospital stressed anecdotal evidence that bank staff had chosen to work at COVID-19 testing and vaccination hubs. Therefore depleting the number of casual staff available and limiting how the hospital was able to staff its maternity services.

Victorian Greens responded to this link on their website by calling “The Minister’s reference to an unexpected baby boom is a little strange. Surely any ‘baby boom’ should have been anticipated by the government given women usually book in to have a baby many months in advance, and don’t just grow a baby overnight.”

Interview with Ellen Sandell

In an interview with Global Green News, Greens MP ,Ellen Sandell, answered a few questions about the funding announcement and the future of public maternity services in Victoria.

Q: Your campaign highlights the specific needs in the public maternity services like more funding  for evidence-based services, and more midwifery 1:1 caseload care. How did the recent funding resolved or railed to resolve the problems in public maternity services?

Ellen Sandell: “In response to the pressure they’ve received from midwives, mothers and us, the Victorian Government recently announced $13m for more midwives across our public hospitals for the next 6 months. This is good news, but obviously more will need to be done to really address the crisis in maternity care that we’re seeing across the public hospital system at the moment, which is leading to women not being provided the care they deserve in labour, birth and the post-natal period.”

Q: What additional investment programs do maternity services in Melbourne need, if any, and how do Victorian Greens plan to call the government for change?  

Ellen Sandell : “Right now, our maternity system really is in crisis. Hospitals and midwives are doing their absolute best but there aren’t enough beds or staff or resources, which means women are giving birth in emergency cubicles, labouring in public waiting rooms, waiting days for urgent inductions, and being sent home too early resulting in infections, mastitis and re-admissions to hospital.Right now, most women who birth in the public system in Victoria don’t have access to continuity of care, where they’re provided care from a single midwife, or small team of midwives, throughout their pregnancy and birth. Research shows this leads to better birth outcomes. The Victorian Government needs to look at the whole public maternity system and invest much more in these continuity of care programs and ensure there are enough hospital beds and staff for all people who give birth in the public system to have a high standard of care.”

Q: In your press statement, you’ve commented on Health Minister’s remarks on the COVID baby boom, stating “The Minister’s reference to an unexpected baby boom is a little strange. Surely any ‘baby boom’ should have been anticipated by the government given women usually book in to have a baby many months in advance, and don’t just grow a baby overnight.” According to an article in The Age, the Royal Women’s Hospital stressed anecdotal evidence that bank staff had chosen to work at COVID-19 testing and vaccination hubs, depleting the number of casual staff available and limiting how the hospital was able to staff its maternity services. Can you elaborate more on the reasons behind this maternity care crisis; is it caused by an unexpected baby boom or government negligence?

Ellen Sandell: “Figures from Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria shows there hasn’t been an increase in births overall in Victoria over the last year. There may have been an increase in births at certain public hospitals, but this alone doesn’t explain the crisis in our maternity system. It’s due to a lack of midwifery and nursing staff (caused by many issues, including nurses working in COVID testing and vaccination clinics and lack of overseas staff due to COVID), midwives leaving the profression because they aren’t given the time and resources to provide women with the level of care they want to, and also a lack of hospital beds and lack of options for women giving birth in the public system. The lack of resources for maternity care also isn’t new – many of our public hosptials have been suffering staff and bed shortages for years, meaning women have very short stays in hosptial and the vast majority of women who give birth in the public system don’t get access to continuity of care (such as seeing a single or small group of midwives throughout their pregnancy), which is what everyone deserves. The Victorian Government really needs to look at the whole system – staffing, hospital beds, and continuity of care and homebirth programs – to provide resources where they’re most effective to fix the crisis.”

Click here if you want to learn more about Ellen Sandell’s maternity care campaign.

Zeynep Karageldi

Zeynep is from Izmir, Turkey. She is a second-year undergraduate student at McGill University in Montreal pursuing a BA in Political Science. Passionate about environmental science and environmental law, Zeynep likes to address issues from both scientific and political perspectives as a writer. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies and traveling.

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