Jan. 17th, 2011

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The Nurses and Midwives Bill goes before the Dáil tomorrow. Amendments were published today. The section of greatest concern to me, section 40, is to be amended but not in a way that's actually helpful for those of us who want to provide homebirth care or who want to birth at home:

"Prior to the commencement of section 40, the Minister will engage with relevant stakeholders on issues of concern including insurance cover for community midwives and the Memorandum of Understanding, while promoting safety and best-practice for mothers and midwives in homebirth."

Now, so far indications have been that Gardaí are relevant stakeholders (they'll be the ones doing the arresting, after all), but community midwives and service users aren't. Indeed, what confidence can anyone have in a Bill that hasn't been fully explored, where the issues that can potentially imprison qualified, professional healthcare providers for providing that service, haven't been discussed, haven't been sorted, where there is no mention of who the "relevant stakeholders" might actually be? This government is, as we know, in its last days and pushing this through before the country gets down to the fun of a general election is not right. We've waited 25 years for a new Act, it needs to be done properly or not at all.

Section 24 is also an important one. Originally this was to establish a midwives committee that the Board _could_ refer to on matters pertaining to midwifery, which would still have meant that midwifery was a sub-section of nursing despite the initial words of the Bill that "it is hereby declared and recognised that nursing and midwifery are separate professions." Under the amendments the purpose of the midwives committee is "to provide advice to the Board in relation to all matters pertaining to midwifery." The membership of this committee has also been changed from 2 midwives to five of the ten members, including one community midwife (no distinction between self-employed or state employed.) There has been no amendment to the requirement that an obstetrician is a member of the midwives board, however.

I've contacted my TDs over these amendments, they don't go far enough even after months of lobbying and submissions from actual stakeholders, both groups and individuals. Under this Bill, even with these amendments, I cannot do the job that the taxpayers of Ireland have been paying to train me to do because as it stands this is incomplete.


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November 2012


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