Maternity in Focus as ten-year plan supports healthcare workers and families

The ACT Government has released a comprehensive 10-year plan to better support our workforce to deliver exceptional public maternity services.

The Maternity in Focus plan is a holistic approach to continuous improvement in ACT maternity services that focuses on families, equity and evidence.

The first action plan sets out the key actions, investments and supports for priority changes over the next four years.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the Maternity in Focus plan addresses national and local strategies in addition to recommendations from the Legislative Assembly Inquiry into Maternity Services in the ACT.

The first action plan contains 58 actions across 21 goals under four themes: Consumers, Best Practice Maternity Care, Clinical Governance and Data, and Workforce, supported by a significant investment of more than $12 million in the upcoming 2022-23 ACT Budget to:

  • Deliver workforce planning for maternity services across the system to ensure a sustainable workforce can deliver exceptional care.
  • Establish new scholarship opportunities for our dedicated midwives and doctors for education, including training for midwives in perinatal loss, perinatal mental health and to become lactation consultants.
  • Deliver a significant boost to northside maternity services including expanding the special care nursery and establishing a new Gestational Diabetes Mellitus service at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce.
  • Undertaking a scoping study for a residential service to support mental health care for new parents and increase parental attachment.
  • Identify and implement maternal satisfaction tools to ensure that care is tailored to individual needs and is accessible, inclusive, respectful and connected between service providers.
  • Evaluate the Canberra Maternity Options program and work with consumers and key stakeholders to ensure services meet consumer and workforce needs.

The ACT Government has also agreed with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation to fast-track negotiation on a ratios framework for midwifery and nursing in maternity services – making the ACT the first jurisdiction to commit to ratios in maternity.

We’ve also heard from both families and midwives that demand for midwife-led continuity of care exceeds current capacity. While the ACT currently has the highest proportion of births in the public system delivered through the continuity model, the Maternity in Focus plan commits to a target of at least 50 per cent of women and pregnant people having access to this model of care by 2028.

In addition, work is currently underway to:

  • Work with ACT Ambulance Service and ACT Insurance Authority to expand the current geographical boundary for the homebirth service to meet community demand.
  • Provide a new Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit at Centenary Hospital for Women and Children to support women and those experiencing complications in early pregnancy to receive prompt, compassionate care.

Quotes attributable to Minister Stephen-Smith:

“Maternity in Focus shows the ACT Government’s commitment to improving public maternity services, supporting our dedicated workforce and better meeting the needs of families in the ACT and the surrounding region.

“We’ve taken a strategic and holistic approach to system and service-level reforms by developing a single, comprehensive public maternity system plan.

“Maternity in Focus is based on the expert advice of our workforce and engagement with key stakeholders and consumers.

“This plan has been produced through collaboration between the ACT Health Directorate, Canberra Health Services and Calvary Public Hospital Bruce, hearing the voices of families, midwives, GPs, specialists and non-government partners.

“The goals and actions in Maternity in Focus will shape the public maternity system to help individuals feel more informed, empowered and respected.

“While there is a lot of work to do to deliver on the vision of Maternity in Focus, a lot of work is already underway to deliver better maternity care.

“This year’s Budget investment and our commitment to maternity ratios and increasing access to the continuity model of care directly respond to the priorities we’ve heard from consumers and staff.”

Maternity in Focus can be viewed at health.act.gov.au/about-our-health-system/maternity-focus.

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