“We know the challenges, we have the solutions.”
That from the College of Midwives as they welcome the new Health Minister announced today.
College Chief Executive, Alison Eddy, says workforce pressure continues to be at the top of the list of health sector challenges and maternity is no different.
“What may be different is we have the solutions,” she says. “Some of those can be implemented or at least started, within the new government’s first 100 days, a timeframe the coalition has indicated will provide a roadmap to getting some of the more urgent things accomplished quickly.”
Ms Eddy says addressing midwifery workforce retention, recruitment and ‘return to work’ challenges must be priority for the new Health Minister and there’s some “low hanging fruit” that can deliver results quickly if acted on now.
“Midwifery students must be better supported financially. The non-completion rate for the students undertaking the midwifery degree is too high. Figures show that had students been better supported over the last decade, we could have had another 1000 midwives working in our communities and hospitals today,” she says. “One of the solutions is to implement an “earn to learn” programme which is available to many other medical students and those undertaking apprenticeships. This would enable midwifery students to be on a placement and receive financial support because having a paying job at the same time is not possible.”
Alison Eddy also says there are hundreds of midwives with Annual Practicing Certificates (APCs) who aren’t working, many because of the pressure and stress in the maternity workspace. She says the College is recommending a “return to work” incentive which could quickly address some of the maternity workforce shortage issues.
Additionally, the College says a national infrastructure to support community-based midwives (lead Maternity Carers or LMCs) is urgently needed, as well as an updated funding and contractual model as the current one has been identified as being out of date.
“The updating of the funding model and the establishment of a midwifery support organisation (similar to Primary Health Organisations which GPs have had for many years), has been identified and agreed to by previous governments and despite the work having been largely completed and promises made around implementation, nothing has happened. It’s time to walk the talk. The template is there ready to go,” she says.
The College says Midwives are a critical part of the health service providing an essential service and although some of the challenges are complex, others are not, and the solutions are there.
“We look forward to working with Dr Reti and his team. The new Government has a real opportunity to make a difference quickly, and we want to help them do that as soon as possible, achieving positive outcomes for women, whānau, birthing parents, babies and midwives,” says Ms Eddy.