Background: Indigenous Australians are a small, widely dispersed population. Regarding childbearing women and infants, inequities in service delivery and culturally unsafe services contribute to significantly poorer outcomes, with a lack of high-level research to guide service redesign. This paper reports on an Evaluation of a specialist (Murri) antenatal clinic for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
Methods: A triangulated mixed method approach generated and analysed data from a range of sources: individual and focus group interviews; surveys; mother and infant audit data; and routinely collected data. A retrospective analysis compared clinical outcomes of women who attended the Murri clinic (n=367) with Indigenous women attending standard care (n=414) provided by the same hospital over the same period. Both services see women of all risk status.
Results: The majority of women attending the Murri clinic reported high levels of satisfaction, specifically with continuity of carer antenatally. However, disappointment with the lack of continuity during labour/birth and postnatally left some women feeling abandoned and uncared for. Compared to Indigenous women attending standard care, those attending the Murri clinic were statistically less likely to be primiparous or partnered, to experience perineal trauma, to have an epidural and to have a baby admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and were more likely to have a non-instrumental vaginal birth. Multivariate analysis found higher normal birth (spontaneous onset of labour, no epidural, non-instrumental vaginal birth without episiotomy) rates amongst women attending the Murri clinic.
Conclusions: Significant benefits were associated with attending the Murri clinic. Recommendations for improvement included ongoing cultural competency training for all hospital staff, reducing duplication of services, improving co-ordination and communication between community and tertiary services, and working in partnership with community-based providers. Combining multi-agency resources to increase continuity of carer, culturally responsive care, and capacity building, including creating opportunities for Indigenous employment, education, and training is desirable, but challenging. Empirical evidence from our Evaluation provided the leverage for a multi-agency agreement to progress this goal within our catchment area.