By: Charlotte Carter

A shortage of midwives in Rotorua is forcing some pregnant women to travel up to an hour out of town to see one.

Many parts of the country are experiencing a shortage, with Immigration New Zealand adding midwives to the “immediate skill shortage” list in December.

The New Zealand College of Midwives is blaming years of underfunding of the service, with midwives’ pay failing to keep pace with inflation.

Rotorua mother Samantha Oxley said it took her 18 weeks to find a midwife in the city during her second pregnancy.

Many midwives were booked up and others said they had booked time off when Oxley was due.

“In the meantime I had to do everything through my GP which was really stressful.”

In the end Vegas Midwives said while they were fully booked, they were prepared to take her on.

“I was really lucky, I had two friends due a little bit later than me that had to use midwives in Taupo because they couldn’t find anyone in Rotorua, they had to travel down there for each appointment,” Oxley said.

Midwife Bronwyn Fleet said there was absolutely a shortage of midwives in Rotorua.

Most weeks she had to turn away two or three potential new clients, she said.

“A number of midwives in the area have left the profession because they’ve done it for a long time and they’ve found it’s not sustainable in terms of their health and well-being, we’re also experiencing pressure in the DHB as well with a number of DHB midwives moving onto contract work in Australia because the pay is better,” Fleet said.

Fleet said in her view the shortage was financially driven.

“Over the years I think midwives have had very few pay rises and the pay hasn’t kept pace with inflation and cost, so it costs a lot more for us to provide midwifery services, fuel costs, costs to have an office and what it’s meant is our incomes have been eroded away over time,” she said.

Fleet said midwives were doing more work now in many cases as women were often having babies later, issues with ill health and obesity were more common and the care that women required now was a lot more comprehensive.

“Rotorua is a lovely place to work, the DHB is a nice environment to work in, the midwives who work there are happy and the community midwives are happy when they go into the DHB to deliver babies – but you just can’t live on nothing.

“If you’re not earning enough to survive, well you have to look elsewhere,” Fleet said.

A Lakes DHB spokesperson confirmed there was a shortage of Lead Maternity Carers (LMCs) in the Lakes DHB area, which includes Rotorua and Taupo.

Last month, Lakes DHB looked after six women who could not find a lead maternity carer, this month four.

It said the women “all received full pregnancy care from the DHB employed midwifery team”.

“Antenatally these women were seen in the Day Assessment Unit at the hospital and labour/birth care was provided by the on–duty midwifery team. Postnatally midwives worked together to provide care to these women and their babies,” the statement said.

The College of Midwives began fighting for pay equity across the country three years ago when it began court action under the previous Government.

Last year the college and the Ministry of Health reached an agreement to design a new funding model for community-based (LMC) midwives.

That process has been worked on since May 2017, ministry director of service commissioning Jill Lane said.

“The Ministry of Health is committed to providing high quality maternal and child health services in New Zealand,” she said.

“Any funding decision is part of the Budget process and confidential. The ministry is working with district health boards to address the workforce pressures in some areas of the country.”

The Budget will be delivered on May 17.

Source: NZ Herald

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