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Privately practising midwife banned for 10 years

03 Apr 2024

A midwife providing private midwifery and home birthing services has been reprimanded and disqualified by a tribunal from applying for registration for 10 years after she practised outside established standards and inconsistently with evidence informed care. 

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) referred Ms Martina Gorner to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) over nine allegations surrounding the care of three women and their babies between July 2016 and October 2018. Ms Gorner previously practised in Victoria through her business Ten Moons Pty Ltd.

The tribunal found that Ms Gorner had: 

  • provided substandard midwifery care to two patients in relation to antenatal care, labour and homebirth care, in particular failing to: 
    • undertake adequate clinical and risk assessments of the women and their unborn babies
    • recommend transfers to hospital
    • urgently call an ambulance on multiple critical occasions throughout the births, and when called in relation to one of the births, lying to paramedics regarding her patient’s status.  She also asked paramedics to  ‘wait five minutes’ in relation to the transfer to hospital of a baby in poor condition that had require resuscitation.
    • provide proper handover to colleagues or hospital staff
    • attend upon women in labour in a timely manner
    • make and keep adequate contemporaneous records.
  • provided substandard antenatal care to a third patient, including failing to undertake appropriate assessments and respond appropriately to clinical matters reported by the patient, including reports of reduced and abnormal fetal movement
  • failed to maintain appropriate professional indemnity insurance in relation to her practice as a private midwife
  • failed to adequately communicate and collaborate with the second midwife involved in the care of two women and their babies
  • failed to demonstrate honesty and integrity while providing midwifery care to two women
  • when providing non-clinical support services to a woman in hospital, provided advice that was inaccurate, inappropriate, unsafe and undermined the ability of the woman’s treating practitioners to provide necessary care
  • transgressed professional boundaries with a woman via inappropriate text messages and statements as well as making enquiries with employees at a hospital to check on the wellbeing of the woman’s baby without authority, and
  • made disparaging and/or disrespectful remarks to patients about professional colleagues and other health practitioners involved in the patients’ care.

On 7 November 2018, the NMBA suspended Ms Gorner by way of immediate action and on 7 February 2019 Ms Gorner surrendered her midwifery registration. Later that year she also surrendered her nursing registration. Ms Gorner continued working as a non-registered person assisting with homebirths and even participated in a podcast discussing Ahpra’s investigation of her. Within this podcast Ms Gorner questioned the authority of Ahpra and questioned the legitimacy of following the Safety and quality guidelines for privately practising midwives. Ms Gorner did not participate in the tribunal proceedings.

The tribunal found that Ms Gorner has shown no insight or remorse for her actions and has been disengaged from the proceeding and defiant. The tribunal was ‘dismayed’ by the public comments Ms Gorner has made.

Having found the nine allegations proven the tribunal found that Ms Gorner behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct and ordered that she:

  • be reprimanded, and
  • is disqualifying her from applying for registration as a nurse or midwife for 10 years.

In December 2021 the Health Complaints Commissioner of Victoria (HCC) made a prohibition order prohibiting Ms Gorner from providing any general health service until the order is varied or revoked. The tribunal stated that had the HCC prohibition order not been in place it would have imposed a prohibition order from providing health services for a period of 10 years.

The tribunal noted that Ms Gorner’s ‘conduct gave life to the risks which PII and the Board’s Safety and Quality Guidelines are intended to protect against’ and that these mothers placed absolute trust in Gorner’s advice about safety and protocols. 

The tribunal also stated that there is a broader health message for the community and that ‘in a world of influencers and self-appointed wellbeing experts, we encourage prospective parents to educate themselves about pregnancy and childbirth by reference to both science and modern approaches to midwifery. That requires time and effort which cannot be substituted with following someone on Instagram or reading posts or blogs which are anecdotal and inaccurate.’  The tribunal continued that the codes and guidelines issued by the NMBA are directed at producing good outcomes, rather than ‘dictating the way in which women should birth’, and have an important place in midwifery which ought not be ‘dismissed as methods to maintain control by the health establishment. It is the professional training given to registered midwives and guidelines of that kind, as well as the dedication of a wide range of other health practitioners, which means Australia’s rates of mother and baby morbidity and mortality are low.’

Ms Gorner has left Australia and now resides in Germany with her most recent communications stating that she has no intention of returning to Australia or practising nursing or midwifery here. 

The tribunal’s decision was made 18 January 2024 and is available on AustLII.

 
 
 
Page reviewed 3/04/2024