ACT Labor to fund a Birth Centre for women living in Canberra’s north

On average, Canberrans are the best educated, best paid and healthiest people in Australia.

Every year we are investing record levels of funding in our community, building a stronger local health system, investing in better schools and teachers, maintaining a strong local economy and creating more local jobs than ever before.

ACT Labor has been building up our health services right across the ACT with new services, new buildings including community health centres, more doctors and more nurses.

Right now ACT Labor is investing $1.3 billion to make our health system even stronger and deliver health care where and when it’s needed.  ACT Labor is committed to building the health system we need for the future.

Our city is growing and every day a dozen babies are born in Canberra’s public hospitals.  That’s more than 4200 births each year and based on current projections to 2020, that figure is expected to increase.

Women in the ACT enjoy a good level of choice in terms of access to birthing models with public and private hospitals offering high quality care for women and their babies.

The quality of maternity services offered in our public hospitals is excellent.

Our public hospitals report the lowest levels of interventions during birth for first-time mothers, with a caesarean rate of 21.9% against a national figure of 23.4%.

The ACT also provides lower levels of caesarean births for all mothers compared to public hospitals in the rest of the nation and considerably below the levels reported in Australian private hospitals.  25% of births for first time mothers are induced in the ACT against a national average of 31.8%.

But there is increasing demand for access to midwife led continuity of care programs which has led to the physical expansion of the Birth Centre on the south side of Canberra. Many women from Canberra’s northern suburbs are accessing these services even though they live closer to Calvary Hospital.

That’s why, if re-elected, ACT Labor will provide $850,000 for a Birth Centre at Calvary Public Hospital for women living in Canberra’s north.

It will mean for the first time, women on the north side can access midwifery led care in state-of-the-art birthing facilities closer to home.

We will also review birth projections, particularly for Canberra’s northern suburbs to inform future expansions to maternity services.


Policy costings

ACT Labor will provide $850,000 in capital funding to establish a new Birth Centre at Calvary Public Hospital.  The funding will deliver two state of the art birthing rooms to be constructed to complement the 5 new Birth Centre beds that have just opened at the new Centenary Hospital for Women and Children in Woden.

ACT Labor to fund a Birth Centre for Women living in Canberra’s north


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What will the funding deliver?

The two rooms will have a similar fit out and feel to the Birth Centre at the new Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. The facility would also include a modern waiting area to accommodate families and provide a kitchenette space, giving it a less clinical, more relaxed feel.

These rooms, once complete, will allow for 200 births per year through this midwifery continuity of care model which has been funded in the 2012-2013 Budget.  The popularity of this program will be monitored and assessed to determine the level of interest in this model and further need for expansion.

We will also undertake a review of birth projections with a focus on north Canberra in light of recent changes to private health rebates and the associated growth in demand for public services over private maternity care.  This will inform any future expansion of services and demand for the different models of care.

Why is this important?

Demand for public birthing services is continuing to grow with a recent shift in the mix between public and private births in the ACT.  More Canberrans appear to be choosing to give birth in public facilities.  Over the past five years, births at Calvary hospital have increased from 1217 to 1500 per annum.

A new birthing centre on the northside of Canberra will allow more women to access midwife-led care and state of the art birthing facilities closer to home.

While the number of births is increasing, demand for midwifery continuity of care programs are also on the rise.  The number of women wanting to give birth in the Birth Centre at Canberra Hospital continues to grow and in recent years the waiting list for the Canberra Midwifery Program has risen, demonstrating the popularity of these programs.

ACT Labor wants women living in Canberra’s northern suburbs to have this choice.

Over the past twelve months, approximately half of all babies delivered in the Birth Centre were born to mothers living north of the Lake.  Providing a similar facility at

Calvary Public Hospital with a continuity of care model will mean women living in Canberra’s north will not have to travel as far to access similar services.

What are the benefits?

A dedicated birthing centre at Calvary Public Hospital will have significant benefits for both pregnant women and midwives.

We know that continuity of midwifery care models can produce significant benefits in terms of length of stay in hospital for normal births, allowing new mums and babies to go home sooner.

The model also provides midwives with an opportunity to practice autonomously, which will support the recruitment and retention of midwifery staff wanting to work in a continuity of care/caseload model in the ACT.  ACT Labor is committed to providing career pathways for our highly qualified midwives and nursing staff.

There is evidence suggesting midwives who work in such a model in a small midwifery group practice are less likely to take personal leave providing a benefit to the health system.

What maternity services do we already have?

The ACT already offers a range of high quality public hospital maternity services at both Canberra Hospital and Calvary Public Hospital.

Canberra women can access a variety of programs designed to give choice of care during pregnancy, labour and birth.  Women can elect to participate in Shared Care between their General Practitioner and the Antenatal Clinic, attend the Antenatal Clinic for all of their prenatal care, or participate in one of two continuity of care programs, birthing in either the birthing rooms (previously known as the Delivery Suite) or the Birth Centre at Canberra Hospital.

The midwife-led continuity of care model is increasingly popular amongst women.  Under this model, midwives are the primary care providers, personalising care for each woman and providing referrals to other health professionals as required. Women work in partnership with a midwife for the provision of care throughout their pregnancy, labour, birth as well as the postnatal period.

The Canberra Midwifery Program offers a continuity of midwifery care model at Canberra Hospital that is designed for well women with a low risk pregnancy who plan to birth in a Birth Centre.  The Continuity at Canberra Hospital Program, known as CatCH, aims to promote continuity of care and carer for women who do not wish to, or who are unable to, give birth in a birth centre.

The ACT Labor Government has recently funded an expansion of this continuity of midwifery care program to Calvary Public Hospital to enable women in Canberra’s north to access the same model of care.