Why being a maternity consumer representative is so important.
It’s a powerful voice to make change. We are the voice of so many.
I’ve lost track of the kilometers I’ve travelled, the meetings I’ve attended, the emails I’ve written, the hours I’ve spent with my phone glued to my ear, all towards representing maternity consumers. I’m not alone, there are plenty of us advocating for better maternity care, fundamental human rights denied to so many in Australia.
For so many of us, it’s our life’s work, a passion with days lost in the dream of having gold standard care for every birthing family. We’re the voice many don’t have, the knowledge of advice to maternity consumers as they navigate through the hierarchy, where medicine and politics are so entwined, like an overgrown garden vine.
Many of us spend our days drafting up letters; to Hospitals, Local Health services, Ministers, Local Members and supporting fellow consumer representatives, providing feedback on Guidelines, hospital procedures, as for all the rewards, there can be as equally as many lows.
It’s a thankless job, and I do what I do, as I don’t want my children having to fight tooth and nail to have access to evidence based birthing facilities, to continuity of midwifery care (we know through evidence and practice that every family should have a known midwife to ensure the best birth outcomes). I want women to have the fundamental human right of being able to choose where she births, how she births and with who.
We know active consumer participation in decision-making leads to improvement in health outcomes, it leads to more accessible and effective health services, but often consumer representatives have to fight so hard to be heard.
Here in sunny Queensland, I have fellow consumer representatives rallying at their local hospital to save their midwifery group practice from closing. They do it because they represent the views of the consumer- consumers want to be cared for by a midwife who is known to her. Yet, these requests fall on deaf ears.
So much of maternity reform is political, actually most of it. We had a never before seen insight when Kate Gorman made The Face of Birth documentary a few years ago. And it’s evident in plague proportions, throughout this country. The Maternity Services Plan is due to expire in June 2016, it was an agreement by all levels of health to work towards evidence based care, continuity of care, local maternity care and it’s had very little implementation and focus.
I heard an interesting comment they other day; “Sometimes the people we vote to represent us, are a mirror of us.” This gave me goosebumps, if this is true of maternity care, this country is in dire straights.
We all can step up and become a united force to really shout from the rooftop- we want birthing options, we want midwives to be our primary carers. We will be heard and we will make change. United. Determined. Unwavering.
Get together with a group of like-minded individuals. The Positive Birth Movement, Empowered Birth Group, Improving Birth are just some groups to find your birth nerd “tribe”. Plan some direction for your local area, meet MPs, write letters, get on hospital committees, as it’s grassroots change that makes such a difference.
If you’d like some support, campaign direction, education about the politics involved in maternity care, head over to www.maternityconsumernetwork.org.au and join us to make change.
Written by Alecia Staines