New laws pave the way for midwife-to-patient ratios and better access to abortion services

  • New laws passed by the Queensland Parliament will enhance patient safety in Queensland’s maternity wards.
  • Reforms will pave the way for the introduction of midwife-to-patient ratios.
  • Changes will also allow nurse practitioners, endorsed midwives and qualified registered nurses and midwives to perform medical terminations in the early stages of pregnancy.

The Miles Government has today passed legislation to improve patient safety for expectant mums and their babies in public hospitals and increase access to termination of pregnancy services.

The Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2) 2023 will allow Queensland to move towards adopting a midwife-to-patient ratio, in a similar way to the current nurse to patient ratios. Importantly, the changes mean newborns will be counted as separate patients.

Midwife to patient ratios will be rolled out in a staged approach. Commencing in 2024, a one midwife to six patient ratio will occur at public maternity wards that have high-level services delivering complex care and acting as a referral service.

Almost 50 percent of Queensland births occur in these locations which includes Logan, Southern Coast University, Cairns, Townsville University, Gold Coast University and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

Further rollout of the ratios will be undertaken in consultation with stakeholders and complimenting other initiatives such as Midwife Group Practice initiatives.

As part of the amendment also, stillborn babies will be included in the ratios. This inclusion recognises the care midwives provide to the family and their child after a stillbirth.

Midwives provide a crucial role in caring for grieving families after a stillbirth, including assisting with bathing and dressing the child and other activities that can help families grieve their loss.

We also know that women, particularly in rural and remote Queensland communities, continue to face barriers accessing safe and timely termination of pregnancy services.

Currently in Queensland, a person in the early stages of pregnancy can only obtain a prescription for the medical termination of pregnancy drug, MS-2 Step, from a doctor.

This can result in inequitable access to safe early medical termination of pregnancy services due to the availability of medical practitioners.

The Bill will allow nurse practitioners, endorsed midwives and qualified registered nurses and midwives to perform medical terminations in the early stages of pregnancy.

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, in a move to support improved access and equity for women and pregnant people across Queensland.

Quotes attributable to Premier Steven Miles:

“We have always said we would listen to Queenslanders and this law reform paves the way for that.

“Having a baby is the most exciting time and we don’t want that to be clouded with any uncertainty. We know introducing one-to-six ratios for midwives and their patients will enhance safety in our maternity wards.

“Additionally, today’s legislation will help more people in rural and regional Queensland have access to termination of pregnancy medication.

“Every Queenslander deserves good, quality healthcare close to home and we are a Government that is committed to that.”

Quotes attributable to the Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Service and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman

“These historic reforms will go a long way in improving access to termination of pregnancy services and advance the patient care and safety in our maternity wards.

“Queensland women continue to face barriers to access safe and timely termination of pregnancy services, particularly in rural and remote communities.

“These new laws will greatly improve access and give women more choices in their reproductive health.

“We know that our existing nurse-to-patient ratios are effective and I’m so proud we will be able to introduce a one-to-six ratio for midwives and their patients.

“This is something our hardworking and dedicated midwives have been calling for and their advocacy has resulted in a significant step forward for women’s health and wellbeing.”

“The Miles Government will continue to make change to ensure the health and safety of Queensland women and girls, no matter where they live.”

Quotes attributable to Chief Midwife Officer Liz Wilkes:

“Midwives have been campaigning for ratios and asking for these changes for quite some time.

“It’s fantastic this initiative has been realised, as our midwives work with increasingly complex women with varying care requirements. Ensuring levels of staffing is crucial.

“Each day, our Queensland midwives do an extraordinary job caring for mums and babies, and this important reform will ensure greater focus is able to be provided to each mother and baby.”

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