The ANMF (Vic Branch) has welcomed the Andrews Government’s announcement of $13.2 million additional funding to help meet the growing demand for many public maternity services in Victoria.
There has been an unexpected increase in births in Victoria, with an additional 1,423 births between April and August 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. In some growth areas of Victoria, health services are expecting up to 20 per cent more births than in 2020.
ANMF has been meeting with ANMF midwifery members, health services, Safer Care Victoria and the Victorian Department of Health to advance immediate and longer-term initiatives to address the staffing challenges.
Health Minister Martin Foley announced on 9 July 2021 the additional funding would be spent on an extra 175 (full time equivalent) staff at 38 health services across Victoria.
It can be used to increase the night shift postnatal ward ratio, implementation of registered undergraduate students of midwifery (RUSOM) models – above the ratios, and an additional appropriately skilled nurse or midwife to assist with unwell neonates on the ward.
Funding can also be used to create better systems to fill unplanned vacancies. For example, ANMF recommended (based on the experience of Western Health) a dedicated midwifery allocations officer who could call midwives individually rather than sending text messages to all midwives, which was fuelling anxiety.
The funding is to be spent over the next six months and the initiatives will be evaluated to inform longer-term strategies. ANMF organisers together with Job Reps will be meeting with their services management to implement strategies funded by their services allocation. The government required maternity services to report to the Department of Health by 31 July on how the funding would be spent.
ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said Mr Foley had listened to midwives and the ANMF, and the ANMF was cautiously optimistic that the funding would resolve the workload issues. However evaluation will be a critical part of the process.
Ms Fitzpatrick said the ANMF and the government were working to build midwifery workforce capacity through the government’s 2018 election commitment $50 million workforce development fund and the ANMF’s $750,000 annual fee grants for post-graduate study. This financial year the ANMF annual grant funding had provided $123,031 to support a further 20 nurses across metropolitan and regional Victoria to undertake postgraduate studies in midwifery.