Midwives win on patient ratios as health reforms pass

Fraser Barton |

Patient ratios are expected to come into effect in 2024 after health reforms passed.
Patient ratios are expected to come into effect in 2024 after health reforms passed.

Midwives will have better workloads and babies will be counted as patients for the first time nationally after laws passed Queensland parliament. 

A long-running campaign by the state’s midwives to combat heavy workloads and introduce minimum midwife-to-patient ratios of one to six, including babies, culminated in legislative reforms passing on Thursday.

The one-to-six midwife to patient ratio is expected to commence in 2024 at public maternity wards that have high-level services delivering complex care, and act as a referral service.

Appropriately trained contemporary midwives and nurses will also be permitted to administer drugs such as MS-2 Step, a type of medical abortion medicine, under the reforms.

Access to specialised training will be provided to health practitioners wishing to be able to prescribe or supply MS-2 Step to a pregnant woman up to 63 days’ gestation.

That decision had been backed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and will significantly improve access to medical terminations for rural and regional women, Minister for Women and Health Shannon Fentiman said.

“This ability for our midwives, our registered nurses working under extended practice scope, our endorsed midwives and nurse practitioners really will make medical terminations far more accessible to so many more women right across Queensland,” she said.

“I am very proud that our government is one of the first in the nation to provide MS-2 Step being prescribed by nurses and midwives.”

The LNP opposition and Katter’s Australia Party voted against allowing nurses and midwives to administer the medical abortion drug.

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union welcomed the patient-to-worker reforms after regular consultations with the government. 

“We have campaigned long and hard and this will go a long way to helping our midwives be able to deliver the care that they want in a timely manner and in a way that allows them to feel valued and recognised,” the union’s secretary Sarah Beaman said.