Differential access to continuity of midwifery care in Queensland, Australia

Roslyn E. Donnellan-Fernandez, Debra K. Creedy, Emily J. Callander, Jenny Gamble, Jocelyn Toohill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: To determine maternal access to continuity of midwifery care in public maternity hospitals across the state of Queensland, Australia. Methods: Maternal access to continuity of midwifery care in Queensland was modelled by considering the proportion of midwives publicly employed to provide continuity of midwifery care alongside 2017 birth data for Queensland Hospital and Health Services. The model assumed an average caseload per full-time equivalent midwife working in continuity of care with 35 women per annum, based on state Nursing and Midwifery Award conditions. Hospitals were grouped into five clusters using standard Australian hospital classifications. Results: Twenty-seven facilities (out of 39, 69%) across all 15 hospital and health services in Queensland providing a maternity service offered continuity of midwifery care in 2017 (birthing onsite). Modelling applying the assumed caseload of 35 women per full-time equivalent midwife found wide variations in the percentage of women able to access continuity of midwifery care, with access available for an estimated 18% of childbearing women across the state. Hospital classifications with higher clinical services capability and birth volume did not equate with higher access to continuity of midwifery care in metropolitan areas. Regional health services with level 3 district hospitals assisting with <500 births showed higher levels of access, potentially due to additional challenges to meet local population needs to those of a metropolitan service. Access to full continuity of midwifery care in level 3 remote hospitals (<500 births) was artificially inflated due to planned pre-labour transfers for women requiring specialised intrapartum care and women who planned to birth at other hospitals. Conclusions: Despite strong evidence that continuity of midwifery care offers optimal care for women and their babies, there was significant variation in implementation and scale-up of these models across hospital jurisdictions. What is known about the topic?: Access to continuity of midwifery care for pregnant women within the public health system varies widely; however, access variation among different hospital classification groups in Australian states and territories has not been systematically mapped. What does this paper add?: This paper identified differential access to continuity of midwifery care among hospital classifications grouped for clinical services capability and birth volume in one state, Queensland. It shows that higher clinical services capability and birth volume did not equate with higher access to continuity of midwifery care in metropolitan areas. What are the implications for practitioners: Scaling up continuity of midwifery care among all hospital classification groups in Queensland remains an important public health strategy to address equitable service access.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-35
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Health Review
Volume45
Issue number1
Early online date28 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 AHHA.

Keywords

  • health equity
  • maternal health services
  • pregnancy
  • vulnerable populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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