Maternity care consumers across northern Alberta are working together to ask the Minister of Health and Alberta Health Services (AHS) to close the gap in access to midwifery services in the north. The midwifery funding allocations were announced this summer without any new dollars being allocated to the North Zone.
Recognizing that there are challenges unique to the northern context, the group of consumers contend that a northern strategy is needed to fill the gap.
Currently, there are only three midwives practicing in the North Zone (less than three per cent), out of the 108 midwives practicing provincially.
Northern Alberta makes up 60 per cent of the land mass and comprises nine per cent of the provincial population.
If AHS wants to make access to midwifery services equitable for northern Albertans, there should be at least 10 midwives practicing in the North Zone. Wood Buffalo Woman and Baby Care Association (WBWBCA), Birth Matters for Peace Parents (BMPP) and individual maternity care consumers from Grande Prairie have begun collaborating with hopes to attract midwifery funding to northern Alberta.
The primary strategy will be to urge the Minister of Health and AHS to prioritize equitable access to midwifery services across the province.
The groups recognize that the fundamental challenge is scarce funding for midwifery services relative to provincial demand and they openly acknowledge the hurdles facing midwifery workforce development in the AHS North Zone, including recruitment, retention, integration and cost of living.
However, these northern maternity care consumers aspire to be part of the solution.
“While we understand the systemic barriers to midwifery workforce development in the north, we are asking AHS and the Ministry of Health to develop a strategy to address the unique challenges we face,” said Rebecca Edwards Rabiey, Chairperson for BMPP.
Jennifer Stephenson, Chair of WBWBCA stated: “Our community in Wood Buffalo has one of the highest birth rates in Alberta.
It is difficult to recruit specialized care to the northern regions, which results in a shortage of obstetrical services.
Expectant mothers are faced with long wait times in obstetrician offices and have little option other than to travel out of the region for other choices of care. Our current specialists are over-extended and the addition of midwifery services to accept some of the low-risk pregnancies would help to alleviate this burden.”
Stephenson further noted, “There is significant public demand for midwifery services in our region, which would allow families to have a choice of who their care provider is, instead of having to travel for options. This will also positively impact the community by keeping funds and services local.”