A group of midwives and supporters gathered outside MLA for Morden-Winkler Cameron Friesen’s office on June 27 to bring awareness to the lack of midwife positions in the province.
Bethany Rempel is a recent graduate of the Midwifery Education Program at McMaster University. She said she and her 11 other fellow graduates are excited to serve in Manitoba, but the positions just aren’t there.
“Many communities do not have a midwifery team,” Rempel said. “We need the government to open up positions for midwives in Manitoba and be involved with midwives to create initiatives to open clinics for other rural communities to access midwifery care.”
Rempel said midwifery has been proven to be cost effective and can improve maternal and neonatal outcomes.
Midwives are primary care providers for a woman during a low-risk pregnancy, providing care through the pregnancy, birth process and for six weeks postpartum.
The Midwives Association of Manitoba (MAM) provided service to over 1,800 families in the past year. Midwifery services are covered for Manitoba residents.
Rempel said she hoped the rally would raise public awareness and keep midwifery on the government agenda.
“From experience working in the Winkler Midwifery Clinic, the midwives doing intake every month turn away over 50 per cent of their clients,” she said. “There are families that want midwives, there are midwives that want to work, but there are not enough positions to employ the midwives that want to work.”
Rempel said she became interested in midwifery because of its client centred model. “They provide care through a feminist lens,” she said. “The tenants of midwifery are offering choice of birthplace, shared decision making and continuity of care, and those are values that I can stand behind.”
MAM President Sarah Davis said there are about 52 practicing midwives in the province, 28-30 of them in Winnipeg. Davis said the rural regions of the province are underserved.
“Almost half of the people that apply for services are turned away,” she said. “This is a service that has never been promoted. It’s never been advertised. These are people who have sought out a service themselves and half of them can’t get it.”
Davis said there are no vacancies in the province, and if all midwifery graduates were hired their workforce would increase by 20 per cent.
Another recent graduate, Heike Twelkemeyer, is moving to Saskatchewan because she found a job there. She said she would prefer to stay in Manitoba, as her family is here, but has to move to another province because the work just isn’t here.
MLA Friesen said he recently met with the Canadian Association of Midwives and the Manitoba Association of Midwives.
“We had a good exchange,” he said. “We talked about the importance of the model. More and more families are wanting to have a birth experience that doesn’t involve going to a hospital if they don’t need to.”
Friesen said the government is currently doing clinical planning for a centralized health care plan for the province, which will include midwifery care.
The Manitoba Clinical and Preventative Services Plan has been under development for about a year, and Friesen said the plan is bring the right people to the table.
“Instead of allowing the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Interlake-Eastern and Southern Health and Northern Health and Prairie Mountain to all have a different plan, one plan to equitably deliver those services on a coherent and defensible basis across the whole province,” he said. “Part of that analysis will also take into account what midwifery should look like in the province of Manitoba.”
Friesen said a report will be delivered to government sometime next spring or summer.