A new Midwifery Workforce Accord between the Ministry of Health, the district health boards (DHBs), New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and the midwives’ union MERAS has been signed today by all parties at Parliament at a launch by Health Minister Dr David Clark.

The Midwifery Workforce Accord complements a similar Safe Staffing and Care Capacity Demand Management: Effective Implementation Accord signed between the Ministry of Health, DHBs and NZNO last year.

NZNO Associate Professional Services Manager Hilary Graham-Smith, who represented NZNO in negotiating the Midwifery Workforce Accord and will sign it today on NZNO’s behalf, said it will further help ensure safe and sustainable staffing levels in our public hospitals.

“Just like the nursing workforce, the midwifery workforce has been under pressure and faced widespread challenges. Now these issues can begin being addressed and that’s a wonderful result, not just for midwives, but also for mothers and their babies. And that means for everyone.”

However, Ms Graham-Smith said that workforce and safe staffing issues have been worsening for both nurses and midwives for many years, and that no one should have any illusions that these problems will be solved overnight.

“The Safe Staffing and Care Capacity Demand Management: Effective Implementation Accord was signed on 31 July last year and, while there has been solid commitment from all parties and much work done since then, we are only beginning to see extra nurses being employed right now and strategy development to solve nursing problems remains ongoing. But with these Accords we at least have a clear path forward.”

Health Minister David Clark also acknowledged the challenges the midwifery workforce continues to face.

“It is clear that the midwifery workforce is under pressure nationally and is facing widespread workforce challenges,” he said.

“Issues of safe staffing and workloads have developed over many years and everyone acknowledges they will take time to fix.”

“Most people working in health accept that these issues couldn’t be fixed immediately. This Accord establishes a forum to deal with these issues on an ongoing basis.”

“The Government is committed to making sure that staffing levels for midwives employed by DHBs are safe for mothers, their babies and for midwives themselves.”

Under the terms of the accord, all four parties including both unions – MERAS and NZNO will:

  • Explore options to support and encourage new midwifery graduates to choose DHB employment,
  • Develop a strategy for retention of the existing midwifery workforce, and workforce development,
  • Develop a strategy to better support midwives in training, with a particular focus on Māori and Pacific midwives,
  • Agree to progress the implementation of the safe staffing tool ‘Care Capacity Demand Management’ (CCDM) in maternity services.

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