Queensland celebrates nation-leading midwifery ratios

Published: 30 November 2023

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) is celebrating a major victory for women and babies with the announcement of nation-leading midwifery ratios for Queensland public hospitals today.  
QNMU Secretary Kate Veach said Health Minister Shannon Fentiman today announced the introduction of midwifery ratios legislation that would mandate how many mothers and babies could safely be allocated to a single Queensland Health (QH) midwife. 
Ms Veach said under existing federal law, not all Queensland babies were counted as additional patients alongside their mother or included in midwives’ workloads. This also occurs in all other states and territories. 
The QNMU understands that under the new ratios, Queensland will become the only Australian state or territory that counts and includes both mothers and babies in midwifery ratios – making QH postnatal maternity wards the safest in the country. The ratios will apply when babies are in the same room as their parent.   
“Today’s announcement of legislation containing midwifery ratios of one midwife to three women and three babies, or a total of six individuals, on Queensland Health postnatal maternity wards is a huge win for Queensland,” Ms Veach said.  
“Ensuring each baby is counted as an additional patient alongside the mother is also an Australian first. Once this legislation is passed, Queensland Health will lead the way in the provision of safe, public postnatal maternity care in Australia.  
“The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union and our members have long campaigned for safe midwifery ratios to keep mothers, babies and midwives safe. Today is a great day for Queensland.”  
A recent QNMU Count the Babies audit of a number of QH inpatient maternity wards found individual midwives were routinely being allocated up 20 women and babies, or a total of up to 20 individuals, at a time. This is unsafe. 
QNMU member and midwife Ashleigh Sullivan said QH midwives continue to work incredibly hard in often extreme circumstances to keep those in their care safe.  
“I would like to thank Minister Fentiman for listening to and acting on the concerns of Queenslanders and midwives,” Ms Sullivan said.  
“At the moment midwives are overloaded with many experiencing burn out and being forced to leave the public system and the jobs they love. 
“As the QNMU’s Count the Babies audit found, it’s not uncommon for midwives to look after up to ten mothers and ten babies, or up to 20 human beings, at one time. 
“The announcement of midwifery ratios will ensure Queensland Health midwives feel valued, supported and heard. It will also enable midwives to provide Queensland women and babies they level of care they need and deserve.  
“Having more time and being enabled to provide the best quality care will improve outcomes for babies, mothers and the Queensland community. It will also reduce readmissions. 
“These nation-leading ratios will also attract skilled midwives to Queensland.” 
Ms Veach acknowledged additional QH midwives would be required to meet the ratios and again called for a state workforce plan and funding to address existing and forecast staff shortfalls.  
The QNMU is awaiting further detail from the State Government regarding when midwifery ratios will be rolled out.    
In 2016, Queensland became the fourth government in the world to introduce nurse-to-patient ratios in prescribed Queensland Health wards. This roll out continues.  
In the first year alone, QH ratios saved 145 lives and up to 81 million taxpayer dollars. 
The QNMU’s Count the Babies audit findings are available here.

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