Australia’s Queensland Government has enacted the Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No.2) 2023, which introduces a midwife-to-patient ratio in public hospitals. 

This legislation aims to improve patient safety for expectant mothers and their newborns across the state, and will further enhance access to termination of pregnancy services.  

The midwife-to-patient ratio, similar to the existing nurse-to-patient ratios, will count newborns as individual patients, ensuring better care during childbirth. 

It will be implemented across the state in a staged manner.  

Starting this year, all the high-level public maternity wards, which handle complex care and serve as referral centres in Queensland, will follow a one-midwife to six-patient ratio.  

The facilities, which account for nearly half of the births in Queensland, mainly include those at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Logan, Southern Coast University, Cairns, Townsville University, and Gold Coast University.  

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The further implementation of the ratios will continue in consultation with stakeholders and will be complemented by other initiatives, including Midwife Group Practice programmes.  

Another key aspect of the legislation is that stillborn babies are also included in the ratios, acknowledging the essential care that midwives provide to families during such difficult times. 

In addition to the midwife-to-patient ratio, the Bill addresses access to termination of pregnancy services.  

It expands the ability to prescribe the medical termination drug, MS-2 Step, which is currently available to medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, endorsed midwives, and qualified registered nurses and midwives for early-stage pregnancies.  

This change is expected to reduce the barriers faced by women, especially in rural and remote areas of Queensland, in accessing safe and timely medical terminations. 

Health practitioners will receive specialised training to prescribe or supply MS-2 Step up to 63 days into gestation, supporting improved access and equity across the state.  

Queensland Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Service and Women Minister Shannon Fentiman said: “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.”