GANDER, NL – Nearly a year after announcing Central Newfoundland would be the first area of the province to employ registered midwives, Health Minister John Haggie says progress continues to fill the positions.
Three positions slotted for James Paton Memorial Regional Health Centre in Gander will be advertised this spring, with an expected start date this fall, the minister said.
This would align with the timeline established when Haggie first made the announcement in May 2017.
At that time, the province hired consultant Gisela Becker – who has an extensive background, both nationally and internationally, in midwifery – to head up the two-year pilot project. Becker would assume the position in the fall.
She was tasked with establishing provincial policies and training requirements for what will be two pilot projects – the first being rural midwifery, then urban.
The rural site would be established in Gander and focus on midwifery for low-risk pregnancies, along with anti- and post-natal care.
Recruitment would begin at the end of the first year.
Haggie believes establishing registered midwives can go a long way in addressing Central Health’s obstetrical challenges, which have seen ongoing delivery diversions between Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor.
“When this system works, as it’s envisaged, what you will have is a totally integrated system where low-risk pregnancies can be monitored, low-risk births can be done and postpartum care can be delivered by midwives,” said Haggie. “That will be work that will be taken off physicians, be they family doctors or obstetricians, and that will free them up to use their skills to deal with higher-risk pregnancies, which will need more time and effort.
“The whole idea is that midwifery will be complementary to a good childcare, anti-natal, post-partum healthcare program.”
Debbie Forward, president of the Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland & Labrador, agrees.
Forward has been raising concerns about RNs having to travel between Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor – approximately an hour each way – to assist another hospital during a diversion.
“It’s part of the solution, and we certainly applauded government’s decision in moving towards midwives in Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said. “The faster this process and documents can be put in place will be a positive end towards making sure that moms and babies don’t have to travel long distances, or registered nurses being displaced for the length of time (a diversion) is happening.”