WA doctors have attacked a new policy for State Government-funded homebirths, saying it sidesteps serious concerns about the increased risk of newborn deaths.

The draft document says women have a right to choose a home delivery at taxpayers' expense provided they are at low risk of complications and give their consent.

But women with risk factors such as a previous caesarean, obesity or a history of blood loss in childbirth should be excluded from publicly funded homebirths.

The policy states that while a WA expert committee on childbirth deaths had found homebirths were linked to preventable stillbirths and infant deaths, they were a safe alternative for women at low risk who used a qualified midwife.

But the Australian Medical Association WA said the policy fudged serious concerns raised by former members of the committee, who found the risk of death in babies born at home was almost four times higher and called for funded homebirth to be banned.

Vice-president Michael Gannon, an obstetrician at King Edward Memorial and Osborne Park hospitals, said while he supported choice for women, he questioned the cost of providing publicly funded homebirths when many hospitals were struggling with the number of midwives available for hospital births.

"It's a very expensive model, and in an area where there are limited resources for orthodox care we have a lot being devoted to a form of care which is more dangerous and a lot more time-consuming and expensive," Dr Gannon said.

"Not only is the taxpayer entitled to think public monies are going to things that are evidence-based, if the evidence suggests it's more dangerous they should have even greater concerns."

AMA WA president Dave Mountain said even low risk pregnancies could go wrong at the last moment.

"This policy doesn't clearly spell out the risks, which raises concerns about women giving so-called informed consent," he said.

But Community Midwifery WA, which is funded by the Government, welcomed the policy, saying it outlined best practice for homebirths. Spokeswoman Pip Brennan said women had access to comprehensive information to make an informed decision.

A Health Department spokeswoman said the draft policy was closed for comment but was still subject to changes before going to director-general Kim Snowball.

The West Australian

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