Wanaka’s mothers and mums-to-be have shown an outpouring of support in the wake of the news that the town will be left with just one full-time working midwife from April.
A special emergency meeting between midwives, Ministry of Health (MoH) and District Health Board (DHB) representatives was held in Queenstown on Tuesday, February 13 to discuss short-term emergency support for the area.
Registered midwife Roz McRae and lead maternity carer (LMC) Morgan Weathington of Wanaka Midwives said that local midwives were feeling positive with what the DHB was proposing to ensure mums in the Wanaka area had a continuity of care in the short-term following the meeting.
They added that they were in discussions with the MoH and DHB regarding a sustainable model of midwifery services in the long-term.
The spotlight has turned to what has been described as a midwifery crisis after Morgan announced that she would be stepping down from her role in April as the stress of trying to provide a midwifery service with limited resources had taken its toll.
Morgan, who estimates that she’s been working around 100 hours a week for just $5 to $10 an hour, said that it had been difficult to make a decision that left the community with fewer services.
“It’s been a tremendous road getting to this point and will continue to be hard, but our exploding population and expensive rents mean that providing midwifery care under the current model is simply not sustainable,” Morgan said.
Over the past several years, Wanaka has seen a number of midwives leave LMC community midwifery work due to the low pay and huge workload.
Morgan and her Wanaka Midwives partner Deb Harvey are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, working 11 days in a row with three days off.
On their days off, just one midwife caters for the entire town.
“It used to be with a smaller community that we weren’t getting called out as often, but as our population grows we will get called out and we will have births in that time when there’s only one midwife on,” Morgan said.
Wanaka Midwives currently has 120 women registered to its care, with the expectation that this will rise to more than 200 this year.
Morgan predicts that six midwives would be needed to adequately care for this number of women.
“We have a tremendously hard-working population of midwives who have done their best and worked themselves at the cost of their families and their own health,” Morgan said.
“Everybody individually reaches a point where they have to shift out and into some other aspect. The problem has been masked for a number of years and we’ve reached a point where it can’t be masked anymore.”
Since learning of Morgan’s resignation on Sunday, February 11, Wanaka’s mums and bubs community has come together in force.
New mum Kristi James from Hawea Flat, who is helping to coordinate efforts to get the voices of Wanaka mums and midwives heard, said, “Immediate action must be taken before we have no midwives left and we are prepared to go to battle for them.”
“Living in a rural area and hours away from hospital means that we depend heavily on our midwives to be there before, during and after birth and without them we would be in a state of complete trepidation.
“We’ve tried petitions, letters and meetings and nothing has worked thus far, so we are prepared to take further action to bring this to the attention of those with the power to make some big decisions. We want to take care of our midwives who take such good care of us.”
Hawea Playgroup president Jo Goodwin, pictured with her two children, said that the local midwives were vital to keeping new mothers alive, educated and sane, especially in a community where so many were living away from their families.
“The midwives become default mothers as well. I hear story after story of our wonderful midwives and sorrow when we hear of another midwife quitting, with little surprise,” Jo said.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said that she was very concerned at the lack of midwives in Wanaka and would be highlighting the issue to Health Minister David Clark.
“I feel for local mothers who may be facing uncertainty and recognise the very important work of midwives in producing good outcomes for mothers and babies in the Upper Clutha area,” Mrs Dean said.
“There is no quick fix, but Wanaka mothers deserve urgent action and I will be taking their concerns to parliament.
“I would like to see the current government continuing to promote midwifery as a profession, encouraging trainees from rural areas who are keen to return home to places like Wanaka.”
Both the Southern DHB and the MoH had not responded to requests for comment as The Wanaka Sun went to print.
- By Danielle Butler / Wanaka Sun firstname.lastname@example.org
What our midwives mean to us
Local mums prepared to go into battle for their midwives explain how important their support has been to them...
Kristi James - As a newish mum living in rural Hawea Flat, I am outraged by the shortcomings of the DHB in providing ample funds and support to our incredibly gifted midwives who sacrifice their own time, money and families to look after ours.
I simply cannot begin to explain the importance of these incredibly generous and gifted women and anyone you talk to who has had a midwife here in Wanaka will say the same. The stories and praises are many.
Lucy Rossiter - I really respected Morgan's advice and care. From day one she was very informed, measured and considered with her words and made me feel like we could work through my concerns and questions and ultimately birth and baby successfully together.
We have no family close and little support, so my midwife during this time was pivotal to my world.
Both my partner and I believe my entire birth and post-baby experience has had huge positive knock-on effects due to the amazing level of support I received, which is incredible considering how poor the funds, resources and support for our midwives are, particularly in Wanaka.
That is testament to how both Morgan and Deb are going over and above to ensure their support to mothers doesn’t waver, even though they are overworked, underpaid, under-funded and undervalued, leading understandably to the loss of another midwife in our swelling community.
Jennie Nelson - The way things are going at the moment, our choice as women to birth the way we feel fit may be taken away from us.
I had an extended 40-hour labour at home in 2016 resulting in a C-section in Dunedin. My midwife was amazing, but if she hadn't been as proactive when she needed to be things might have been different.
I've had friends in a similar position where the midwife’s judgement call played a critical part in their survival.
These women who provide us with such excellent care are working their butts off and getting no support from central government, it is affecting their personal lives and at some point it might start affecting their ability to care for so many women.
They are incredible people and it pains me so much that they have been trying for so long and not being heard. Isn't the birth of our children an important aspect of our culture?!
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