Access to midwifery care in Red Deer is expected to jump when funding increases next year.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Alberta Association of Midwives have reached a three-year agreement that will see provincial funding increase in Central Alberta in April 2020.
“We definitely are pleased with the increased funding and increased commitment to midwifery. It’s definitely moving in the right direction,” said Jennifer Bindon, of Prairie Midwives in Red Deer.
She said midwives with her agency will care for about 155 women this year with the potential to increase to about 240 women in 2020.
She said the increase in funding and commitment to grow midwifery in Alberta is needed to be able to continue to offer more services to women.
For women with low-risk pregnancies, midwifery is a safe option. Research has shown that women who give birth with the assistance of a midwife tend to have shorter hospital stays, are more likely to breastfeed and require fewer medical interventions, such as caesarean sections.
AHS said the renewed agreement will improve access to midwifery for residents of small urban, rural and Indigenous communities.
“Work is underway on a finalized agreement between AHS and the Alberta Association of Midwives regarding how midwifery services will expand in various areas in the province, including Central Zone. However, the new agreement will mean that Central Zone’s midwives will be able to work to their full capacity in Alberta,” the AHS statement said.
Central zone currently has eight midwives providing courses of care to families in Red Deer and surrounding areas. This includes the full spectrum of obstetrical care, from prenatal, to delivery to post-partum.
In December, the province announced it was expanding midwives’ scope of practice, which will bring them in line with many other provinces and territories.
Midwives who complete additional training and are authorized by the College of Midwives of Alberta will be able to prescribe, dispense and administer a broader range of prescription drugs, contraceptives and contraceptive devices and, in a hospital, benzodiazepines and narcotics. They will also be able to prescribe and administer vaccines, insert intrauterine contraceptive devices, provide prescription drugs to induce labour and use ultrasounds to determine fetal position.
Bindon said integrating midwives more into the medical team and giving them more say will reduce wait times for services like access to drugs to induce labour and “that’s huge.”
She said although the scope of practice increases April 1, the college has yet to release training information. She anticipates a long, slow roll out, but hoped midwives would be able to offer more services sometime this year.