Epworth Geelong’s decision to close its maternity services from 31 March 2023 is a missed opportunity to invest and build its midwifery workforce, according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch).
The ANMF (Vic Branch) received a proposal in November 2022 from Epworth Geelong to close its maternity service.
Since then, ANMF has continued to advocate that Epworth Geelong management introduce a number of initiatives to help recruit midwives and retain its experienced workforce. These included:
- retention payments – similar to St John of God Geelong’s midwifery incentive payments
- flexible work arrangements
- midwifery leadership structure.
ANMF (Vic Branch) Acting Secretary Paul Gilbert said ‘Epworth Geelong is competing in a tight midwifery workforce market, but has displayed little initiative in investing in its midwifery workforce.’
ANMF will continue to support our members until the service closes. This includes negotiating redundancies and helping to secure alternative work at nearby services. ANMF has a scheduled member meeting today, Thursday 2 February, with further meetings to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
‘We applaud the community for their strong grassroots campaign to save one of their local private maternity services,’ Mr Gilbert said.
‘However, University Hospital Geelong should not be viewed as a ‘plan b’ and we encourage women and their families to embrace their local public maternity service and the committed midwives who work there,’ he said.
‘Like all public health services across Victoria and the country, University Hospital Geelong has had to navigate through COVID’s difficult workforce and demand challenges, but ANMF and its members are confident it can absorb additional births,’ Mr Gilbert said.
‘University Hospital Geelong is the only local maternity service that has midwife/patient ratios under the Safe Patient Care Act and the Andrews Government has given election commitments to further improve midwifery ratios.
‘The community should feel confident in the services provided by Barwon Health,’ Mr Gilbert said.
‘ANMF’s ongoing work with Barwon Health also includes rostering reforms to give midwives more flexibility and options for the way they work.
‘We’ve also been working with them on the development of continuity of care models so women see the same midwife, or group of midwives, from their antenatal visits, birth, and through to their postnatal and extended postnatal care in the home,’ Mr Gilbert said.
ANMF is also involved in consultation and development discussions with Barwon Health about expanding its Midwifery Group Practice model to include homebirths.
‘Being able to provide woman-centred care with the choice of working in and across many models of care with flexible work options and safe staffing levels gives midwives professional satisfaction which is the best midwifery recruitment and retention tool,’ Mr Gilbert said.