Over the past few months the Terrace Standard has featured articles highlighting the doctor shortage in our area, and the extensive recruitment efforts put forth by Northern Health to attract and retain doctors in Terrace. While I completely agree that there is a strong need for more doctors in our community, I also believe that we should be making use of allied healthcare providers like midwives.
In recent years, there has been an increased demand for midwifery services across British Columbia. Yet, midwifery is still not available in some rural communities, like Terrace. Our health care system is facing a growing shortage of physicians, and fewer family physicians are assisting with births, thus creating a gap in maternity care. As the economy grows and more people move here, the challenges ahead will only increase. Integrating midwifery into our community could help ease the strain on the health care system, provide better access to maternity care, improve health outcomes for families and reduce costs.
Midwifery is a safe, recognized and growing choice for maternity care in BC and around the world. It has been a regulated profession in BC under the Health Professions Act since 1998. Registered midwives are highly trained, university educated health care professionals who are experts in healthy pregnancy and birth. In countries like England, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands the majority of births are attended by midwives with excellent outcomes. According to the Midwives Association of British Columbia, on average at least 70 per cent of births in BC are considered low-risk, making these births suitable for midwifery care.
Midwives should be integrated members of the maternity care team in the community and in the hospital. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada “promotes the building of interprofessional relationships between midwives and other obstetrical care providers in the interest of providing excellent health care for women and their babies” (Policy Statement on Midwifery, July 2009). Interprofessional collaboration is promoted as an effective way to improve the delivery and sustainability of primary maternity care.
Many families in Terrace travel to Hazelton and Smithers to access midwifery care. One of the many aspects that attracts people to midwifery care is the continuity of care – the ability to see the same care provider throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Central to the midwifery model of care is respecting the right of their clients to make informed decisions by providing evidence based information in a supportive manner. They also believe it is a person’s right to make an informed choice about the setting for their birth – either at home or in the hospital. It is important that registered midwives hold hospital privileges so they can admit and discharge their clients as needed.
The province covers the costs of midwifery services for all BC residents with a valid care card through the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP). This means midwifery services are accessible to all BC residents regardless of their socio-economic status.
Given the numerous health benefits of midwifery coupled with cost savings, we should be looking for ways to increase maternity options in our community. Women should have the right to access the care they feel is best for their pregnancies and births.