Current Affairs Ministry introduces changes to improve health care during and after birth
The Health Ministry has announced that it will be introducing two changes as of the New Year, to help mothers giving birth have more privacy and feel more in control while they are in the hospital. Mothers who experience a naturally progressing birth without complications may choose to have only nurses present at the procedure, and will be able to leave the hospital within hours of giving birth, after receiving instructions on how to care for the baby.
The Czech healthcare system boasts one of the best birth-related statistics in Europe, and local obstetricians are keen on protecting that reputation. But the Czech medical establishment has been criticizes for some time now for not offering alternatives to doctor-led births in the hospital.
The recent changes the Health Ministry is introducing are meant to make mothers feel more at ease during and after giving birth. The biggest change is the possibility of not having a doctor present at the birth, which was previously required by health insurance providers.
I spoke to Zuzana Štromerová, a midwife and the director of an alternative birth advocacy organization Birthing House U Čápa, and asked if she welcomes the ministry’s recent decision.
“Yes, I think it’s a good step forward. On the other hand, I would say that it is a little bit funny. When I started to get international contacts around 20 years ago, my colleagues abroad were telling me – what you are telling us about your obstetric case is the same as what we had 20 years ago. And now, what our ministry is introducing was quite normal 20 years ago in other countries, like Germany and Great Britain and other European countries. So, actually, it isn’t anything very new, but I think at the same time, it is very important, even though it is not a sufficient change.”
In your opinion, what would be the changes that will need to be made for obstetric care in the Czech Republic to be on par with other European countries?
“We need the situation to be such that mothers are able to implement their human right to choose the place and the care provider they would wish to have. If they wish to give birth in a hospital, they should have the right and possibility to give birth in the hospital, but if they wish to give birth out of hospital, they should have that right too. And at the moment, this is illegal. Also, a care provider should be available and everything should be covered by the insurance the same way as it is now with hospital births.”
Do you feel that these two changes that will be implemented – whether they are significant changes or not – are an indication that the Health Ministry is willing to work more closely with organizations like yours and with mothers who want more alternative approaches?
“Well, that’s very difficult to judge. I would not be so optimistic to say that the Ministry of Health would be willing to change their approach to organizations like ours or would work closely with midwifery organizations. But I would say that it is the first step and maybe next year will show whether the ministry will realize that we really need the same practices as in other countries – meaning giving the mothers the right to choose the care provider, the place of birth and the type of care they receive – or whether the ministry will say, we have made a small step forward so the public and the activists should be quiet now. We will see. I don’t think this is a proper time to be too delighted or to be very skeptical. We have to wait and see.”