Australian midwives would be able to provide taxpayer-subsidised drugs and care under recommendations made to the federal government by its chief nurse. But Commonwealth funding for home births has been rejected.
The Maternity Services Review will recommend the Federal Government hand more power to midwives, who currently only support doctors.
AdvertisementThe most radical recommendation, certain to be opposed by the medical profession, is to consider opening up Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme payments to midwives.
Midwives' access to Medicare and the PBS would only be permitted if accompanied by the completion of advanced professional requirements.
The report will ask consideration be given to the creation of professional indemnity insurance for midwives.
Ms Bryant said the review found there was a case to expand the range of models for maternity care, giving women greater choice.
"There is a lack of unanimity within and between some groups of the medical and midwifery professions on the issue of how to deal with risk and consumer preferences," she said.
"While it is acknowledged that safety and quality of care is an overarching goal, it would be remiss to always use it as an excuse not to change practice."
There were differing views on to what extent taxpayers should fund extra services to meet the preferences of individuals, Ms Bryant said.
Birth outcomes for indigenous Australians was a pressing national issue, with the review recommending an expansion of maternity services programs. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are almost three times more likely, than non-indigenous women, to die while pregnant, during labour or up to six weeks after giving birth.
The high rate of maternal mortality among indigenous woman has not abated since first measured in the early 1990s.
Homebirth Australia said in its submission there had been a rise in the number of women giving birth at home without medical assistance due to the current lack of funding and professional indemnity insurance for midwives.
The Australian Medical Association maintained that qualified doctors must remain the primary care givers in pregnancy and birth.
The AMA warned that any change could hurt both mothers and babies.
"Australia is one of the safest places to give birth," the AMA said in its submission. "Any reforms to maternity services must not lose sight of, or jeopardise, this excellent record."
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the Government's actions would always focus on mothers and babies.
"I'm determined that our kids are given the best start in life, and that will be the focus of the Rudd Government's actions," she said.
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