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Making room for midwifery in Gander

Newfoundland and Labrador’s midwifery consultant, Gisela Becker, says work continues to implement a registered midwives program at James Patton Memorial Hospital in Gander.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s midwifery consultant, Gisela Becker, says work continues to implement a registered midwives program at James Patton Memorial Hospital in Gander. - Adam Randell

Operational obstetrics unit needed to make pilot project happen

GANDER, N.L. –As work continues towards the implementation of a registered midwives program at James Paton Memorial Hospital, it was only fitting a celebration for the professions international day of recognition be held in Gander.

The Association for Midwives of Newfoundland and Labrador held an information session at the Gander Public Library, May 5, to mark the occasion.

In attendance was Gisela Becker, the province’s midwifery consultant.

During her presentation, she said work continues towards establishing three positions at James Paton.

Gander was selected to be the first of two sites for the pilot project in May 2017. James Paton will serve as the rural location, with an Avalon based urban setting to follow.

Becker – who has an extensive background, both nationally and internationally, in midwifery – was hired to head up the two-year pilot project. She was tasked with establishing provincial policies and training requirements.

She called it a very collaborative approach with Central Health to bring the project to fruition.

“We’re looking at the different aspects of integrating midwives and how they work together (with obstetrical staff),” she said. “Basically, you’re bringing a new provider group to the mix and the attempt is to pave the way for when midwifes arrive,” she said.

The advertising process was set to begin in the spring, with Becker stating work on the position classification has taken place. Hires were expected to be in place by the fall.

However, without an obstetrical unit, Becker said it will likely be some time before the program is rolled out in Gander.

Central Health has stated the continued unavailability of obstetrical service providers will see a diversion in services from Gander to Grand Falls-Windsor until Oct. 31.

“Midwives can’t practice in isolation,” she said. “It’s hard to say by then if (it will be in place) because we depend on the successful hire of midwives, and, it will be important to reopen the obstetrical unit to make it successful.”

But Becker remains confident, that once implemented, it can stabilize Gander’s obstetrical services, as it provides additional low-risk pregnancy providers to the department. If there is a risk concern, she said, there is an ability to work with obstetrics and pediatrics.

Mayor Percy Farwell saw the presentations as a learning opportunity.

“It certainly isn’t something that’s new and radical, but it hasn’t really been practiced in our neck of the woods,” Farwell said. “And anything that adds value to our delivery of health services is certainly quite positive.”

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