Antenatal care shift has unresolved issues


ALLOWING qualified nurses and registered Aboriginal health workers to deliver antenatal care in the Gladstone region will open up numerous unresolved issues, according to the president of the Gladstone branch of the AMA, Dr John Bird.

Dr Bird was commenting on the recent announcement from the federal government to now allow midwives, qualified nurses and Aboriginal health workers in rural and remote areas to deliver ante-natal services rebated through Medicare.

Minister for Ageing and Health Tony Abbott said the government had decided this was the best use of existing medical workers to provide better rural health services.

Midwives, qualified nurses and Aboriginal health workers in Gladstone, Tannum Sands, Boyne Island, Biloela and Moura will be eligible for funding under the proposed scheme.

However Dr Bird said the move could have the opposite effect.

'We have an acute shortage of nursing staff so using nurses for antenatal care has the potential to exacerbate the situation,' he said.

"It may mean less qualified staff doing the antenatal checks.'' Dr Bird questioned the government's move, stating there was little clarity as to the accreditation process to deter-mine whether nurses and Aboriginal health workers had the necessary skills to provide antenatal checks.

'The problem is that governments' have been unwilling to train doctors to have the procedural skills to operate in rural areas,' he said.

Dr Bird also questioned how the rebate could help lessen the critical shortage of midwives in the region.

'The rebate will not produce new midwives to help with the chronic shortage we are currently experiencing,' he said.

A spokesperson for the Minister's office said the government was making better use of the existing health workforce by including for the first time, nurses working in general practice and allied health professionals in the Medicare system.

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