My two grandsons, Spencer and Lavin came into this world with the help of a midwife. My daughter-in-law had consciously chosen this option as she delivered them at the Birthing Centre in St Vital.
Although my sons were delivered more conventionally – in a hospital by a doctor, there’s a lot to be said for midwifery.
Canadians have been reluctant in the past to choose this birthing option, but times are changing. And changing for the better.
You’ll not find a doctor who’ll come out to your house in the middle of the night as you go into labour. Nor will you find another health professional who specializes in nothing but giving birth.
Midwives will work wherever the mother chooses the delivery site, be it a home birth or hospital one. They’ll work with the expectant mother from early pregnancy until a couple of months after the birth.
This may be good news for new parents. However it wasn’t so good for midwives in Manitoba who had been operating without a contract for over two years.
Despite spending up to 50% of their day on-call, they were paid far less in Manitoba than other western provinces. Salaries they claim that were $20,000 less than elsewhere.
This situation could change now though as they recently agreed to a new contract with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. But they had to force their hand.
Represented by CUPE, they had reached an impasse with their employer and a strike vote saw 91% in favour of strike action. A new deal was reached without resorting to striking.
A two year contract that will start to bring them in line with their counterparts in the rest of Canada.
Dedicated professionals that they are, they may care more about their patients than taking industrial action. To that extent they had been operating some informational pickets around town in an effort to raise public awareness of both the service they offer and the unfair compensation they were receiving.
Our provincial government spent $3.5 million to open a new birthing centre five years ago, and budgets another $2.6 million per year for running costs. It was projected to deliver 500 babies per annum, yet is currently operating at only 25% capacity.
And the main reason for that is a shortage of midwives. You must have a midwife to use the facility. The forecast calls for 200 of them throughout the province. Yet there are approximately only 50 midwives in Manitoba with only 30 working in Winnipeg.
The WHRA is funded entirely by our provincial government and with an election looming it is perhaps no coincidence that this two year old dispute was settled just weeks before we go to the polls.
Maybe this new deal will now attract more women into the profession and it looks like they’re badly needed.