Birthrate Plus delivers for mothers and midwives

Westmead Hospital’s midwifery service is reaping the rewards of a union-negotiated staffing tool.

Birthrate Plus, the staffing tool for maternity services, has helped Westmead Hospital midwives achieve a 29% staff increase.

The state’s second biggest maternity hospital, Westmead received approval for 40 new FTE (full time equivalent) positions to bring its midwifery workforce to 174 FTE.

Staff numbers have increased in the birthing unit, maternity ward, antenatal clinic and home visits service.

With almost all new positions filled, the increase has resulted in dramatic improvements, says Joanne Robertson, delegate for the Westmead Hospital branch of the NSWNMA.

“We have more time to give women the help and education they need,” Joanne, a midwife in the maternity ward, said. “And midwives are not as stressed and tired as they were before we got the extra staff.

“We don’t have to do as much overtime and there is less sick leave. It was a long battle to get Birthrate Plus into the award and implemented but it has turned out to be a great tool and we are starting to reap the rewards.”

In the past five years Westmead’s birth rate jumped 27%, meaning more than 1000 additional deliveries per year.

In 2011, with staff struggling to cope with the additional workload, the NSWNMA branch voted to only accept new bookings from women living within the hospital’s designated catchment area.

Actions such as these, plus clear evidence of understaffing provided through the use of Birthrate Plus, led to the approval to employ more midwives in 2012 and 2013.

Joanne says getting Birthrate Plus was a big breakthrough for midwives because it gave them the means to exercise greater control over workloads and maintain safety standards for patients and staff.

Westmead’s operations director for women’s and newborn health, Donna Garland, said almost all additional positions were now filled.

“With the extra staff we have been able to provide more one-on-one care and also expand models of care such as outreach and caseload,” she said.

With caseload care a midwife undertakes all care for a woman including antenatal visits, being on call for any questions, caring for her in labour, and home visits after birth.

“Our midwives were taking on 40 cases a year. Birthrate Plus takes into consideration the acuity as well as the volume of work and the calculations allowed us to reduce the load to 35,” Donna said.

The midwifery service also received additional funding from the Chief Nurse for an after-hours educator.

Birthrate Plus is based on the successful British model of the same name.

Pictured above: Clinical midwive educator Lyly Bouhadir, Acting Midwifery Unit Manager Candace Everard and trainee Natalie Wearne.