Josh Hawkins and Amber Riwoe with nine-week-old son Harlin Hawkins. Picture: Annette Dew
Josh Hawkins and Amber Riwoe with nine-week-old son Harlin Hawkins. Picture: Annette Dew

Nice work if you can deliver on it

PRIVATE obstetricians are being funded by the taxpayer up to $408,474 a year for simply turning up to the birth.

Some Queensland mothers report that their doctor has arrived just in time to pull out their baby and then leave.

Veteran midwife Liz Wilkes, director of My Midwives, says that while an obstetrician can be on the phone with the midwife, a patient's face-to-face contact with her doctor during her labour is often less than an hour.

"It is the midwife who is the constant presence," Ms ­Wilkes said.

The payouts, which have been highlighted in the Medicare Benefits Schedule report on obstetric services, have enraged mums who struggle with the high out-of-pocket costs of having a baby.

Maternity Consumers Network head Alecia Staines says it is time for mothers to receive a larger share of Federal Government cash in the form of a set bundled payment which can be directed to a preferred carer.

Between July last year to May this year items for birth attendance were claimed 66,900 times at the cost of $57,521,681.

The report shows that if an obstetrician looks after 30 patients per month and charges only the scheduled fee, they can bill over $400,000 each year for birth attendance alone.

This does not include any other procedures.

This is just one of the many MBS payouts available to private medicos.

The doctors also get private health insurance payouts - supported by Commonwealth coffers.

Amber Riwoe with son Harlin Hawkins, nine weeks, and daughter Arianna Riwoe, 5s. Picture: Annette Dew
Amber Riwoe with son Harlin Hawkins, nine weeks, and daughter Arianna Riwoe, 5s. Picture: Annette Dew

Veteran obstetrician and former Australian Medical Association Queensland president Gino Pecoraro told The Courier-Mail doctors were in constant contact, planning and making decisions through the whole delivery.

Dr Pecoraro agrees out-of-pocket costs for women are too high but says bundling has been looked at in the past and deemed not feasible.

"Rebates to the patient from Medicare have simply not kept up with the practice costs," he said.

"Also, the rebates private obstetricians receive are not comparable to the high costs of running a practice.

"We have $100,000 for insurance alone, never mind the cost of receptionists and rooms."

Out-of-pocket expenses for a private pregnancy and birth can exceed $8000.

Obstetrician fees can range from $2000 to $10,000.

Queensland mum Amber Riwoe gave birth to her daughter Arianna, 5, in a private hospital, but decided to go with midwife care in the public system for the birth of her baby son Harlin, nine weeks.

"At my first birth my obstetrician turned up just to pull out the baby," she said.

"I am surprised that doctors would get such a big government payout for just being at the birth."



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