Access to midwives limited by funding: group

MaternityCare Consumers of Alberta Network called attention to the need for more midwives while recognizing the International day of the Midwife on Monday.

MaternityCare Consumers of Alberta Network called attention to the need for more midwives while recognizing the International day of the Midwife on Monday.

Lolly de Jonge, network spokesperson, said Albertans actually are challenged when it comes finding any primary care provider for pregnancy whether it be a family physician, obstetrician or midwife.

“We’re seeing few family physicians that are doing pregnancy and births. With the profession of obstetrics, the practitioners are getting older, retiring. And of course we have a limitation on the number midwives in Alberta as well,” de Jonge said.

Currently midwives have a three-year, $37-million funding agreement with Alberta Health Services that limits the number of “courses of care” midwives can provide. The agreement runs to April 2015.

Red Deer midwife Jennifer Bindon, of Prairie Midwives, said the Alberta Association of Midwives is working with AHS to increase the courses of care.

“If we look at the numbers based on wait lists, we probably have room in Red Deer for at least six to eight midwives,” said Bindon who has anywhere between 15 and 40 people on her wait list every month.

Prairie Midwives, with its three midwives can provide 116 courses of care annually.

Elsewhere in Central Alberta, three midwives work at Blessing Way Midwifery serving the Rocky Mountain House area.

“Right now we’re doing one to two per cent of the births in Central Alberta. We would like to be doing 20,” Bindon said.

She said students graduating from Mount Royal University’s bachelor of midwifery program next April won’t have much opportunity to work unless more courses of care are allowed and there’s probably midwives already practising who aren’t working as much as they’d like.

“The demand in care keeps going up and up and up. We know we need more courses of care and that midwifery can be a really viable response to the shortage of maternity care services in this province.”

Bindon said a big reason people seek out midwives is the continuity of care provided.

Joelle Johnson, of Red Deer, had three home water births under the care of midwives. As a chiropractor, she also provides prenatal and postpartum care.

“In my practice, women want that continuity of care. Very often if they’re seeing the same prenatal practitioner, then they feel they’re listened to. That’s a big thing. Women need to feel listened to and taken care of,” Johnson said.

She said women often don’t have that continuity at doctors’ offices.

Prenatal care as a whole needs more funding in Central Alberta, including money for prenatal classes because doctors don’t have time during appointments to educate their patients, she said.

“The more education mothers have and the more support they have, such as doulas and midwives, the less intervention. The less intervention — it’s going to be a lower cost.”

Doula Shannon McQuaig, of Red Deer, said people are turning to midwives because they are learning more about maternity care options available to them.

“I think they like that personal one-on-one care rather than going to a physician’s office where you never know who is going to be attending your birth. You know that one of the two midwives you have met will be there,” McQuaig said.

The health care system needs to be prepared for Central Alberta’s young and growing population, Johnson said.

De Jonge said consumers were one of the driving forces behind midwives being recognized for the role they can play in health care.

“We want to amplify our voices and make sure that our needs are going to be met by the overall maternity care system. Midwifery for many consumers is a choice they’d like to be making.”

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