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Midwife and maternity crisis

23 November, 2007

Seeing as I have become mildly obsessed with what is going on with ‘culture matters’, I thought I might as well jump in and contribute. I am an MAA student and am mainly interested in issues related to maternity & motherhood. I am also interested in debates and issues relating to ethics, corporate anthropology and ethnographic methodology in market research… 

  There has been a steady trickle of media coverage over the last couple of months regarding under funded and understaffed hospitals, and the impact this is having and has had on women being placed in dangerous and traumatic situations during pregnancy (specifically during labour and miscarriage). With the recent media coverage of Jana Horska more and more women are coming forward with their experiences of being maltreated by hospital staff. And now, a growing body of midwives and other medical professionals are also coming forward and uncovering the severity of the issue. 

SENIOR staff at the state’s busiest hospital have threatened to close its doors to women in labour because there are not enough midwives or beds to cope with the baby boom and they fear lives are in danger.Angry midwives at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown wrote to the Herald to complain women were left to labour in chairs because the beds were full, and that they were asked daily to work double shifts to cope with demand.They said the maternity unit was down 29 midwives, and some staff were working three shifts in a 34-hour period.“Our maternity services are stretched beyond a safe working capacity. We are constantly … asked to care for more mothers and babies than is humanly possible,” one midwife, who sought to remain anonymous, said.“Patient safety is continually compromised … bed block is occurring every day. Delivery suite is constantly overcrowded with 14 women in an 11-bed unit and unsafe staffing levels.”She said staff had requested that the maternity unit be closed to new patients when full or overcrowded to ensure its safe operation, and that women be transferred to other maternity units in the area.            The rest of the article is here

This raises a number of issues along the lines of objectification of the body, compassion fatigue, perhaps even misogyny. The victims according to these articles are both pregnant women in crisis, and midwives (generally women). I would suggest that this also points out the current government’s inability to create strong infrastructure to support the results of policies, in this case of the predictable effects of the baby bonus and campaigns to ‘have one for the country’…  

M.Stockey-Bridge

One Comment leave one →
  1. victorialoblay permalink
    23 November, 2007 5:44 pm

    interesting post – and the issues you raise are close to my own research-heart… I’m still not sure whether the baby bonus and the baby boom go hand-in-hand. When I read this article this morning I wondered why it is that this particular part of sydney has been hit so hard with baby-fever? And whether it is just an increase in deliveries, or whether there is also an additional demand for medical services for pregnancy in this region.

    While I’m certainly not abrogating the government’s responsibility for infrastructure and health-care, I think there are some deeper issues to do with women’s expectations of medical treatment as part of pregnancy and the ways in which pregnancy is managed in a public hospital setting. In the case of prenatal care, where I do my research, increased funding for testing has actually placed more of a demand on the system by enabling more women to have free access to more tests during pregnancy (tests that are not definitive and can sometimes lead to further invasive tests and potentially miscarriage). In the public hospital where I work, most women undergo at least 3 ultrasound scans if they are healthy during pregnancy, whereas state health policy recommends only 1. In this sense, resource allocation has become a form of consumption of medical technology rather than a thoughtful deliberation informed by professional opinion – Similar issues can be seen with the rise in Caesarean rates as well:
    http://news.smh.com.au/older-mums-favouring-caesareans-report/20071123-1c9g.html
    Is this really the best way to address public health?

    These things have consequences in terms of the “system’s” ability to cope and involve both medical staff as well as patients. When we talk ‘victims’ it is important to note that although power relationships are uneven in instances of medical authority, the internet (as a source of medical knowledge) and the threat of litigation also loom large in these power relations.

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