By: Tess Nichol

Letters to Health Minister David Clark stuck to walls of his office, which will be delivered to Parliament in a march in May. Photo / Dear David, Aotearoa needs Midwives


Fed up midwives are planning a series of actions demanding better pay, culminating with a march on Parliament.

Two days before International Midwives Day on May 5, practicing midwives and their supporters will deliver hundreds of letters to Health Minister David Clark, who they have asked to attend.

Hundreds of midwives and their supporters have written to Clark in the Dear David campaign, detailing how difficult it is for them to keep doing the job they love.

“I work 0 to 9 in an extremely busy, understaffed secondary hospital. I routinely cry on my drive home every morning,” one midwife said.

Organiser Anna Ramsay, a midwife in Waikato DHB area, said the march as about honouring the importance of those letters and giving them the attention they deserved.

“The thing is, the messages we’ve received are incredibly personal and they’ve been sent to us by midwives, their partners and their grandmothers and doctors and anaesthetists, you wouldn’t believe [how many people].

“We promised them their stories would get to David. Women’s experiences and stories are so important.”

She hoped Clark would meet the marchers on the steps of Parliament.

So far the Facebook page organising the event had 8000 likes and Ramsay said she encouraged anyone who had either received midwife care or supported their cause to join.

She wanted Clark to put into action policy addressing lack of pay equity and underfunding of midwifery as an industry.

“Our message is incredibly clear. The New Zealand college of midwives took the Government to court over the pay parity issue that was apparent in midwifery.

“They agreed to the mediation process with the Ministry of Health for a funding plan which would deal with both the inequity in pay and also the consistent underfunding for the last 15 years at least of maternity services.

“We just need this Government to fund it.”

Clark said he accepted there was underfunding in the sector and that the issue was a priority for him, but said the Government wouldn’t fix everything in one Budget.

“The last Government left health and midwifery in a mess. They chose to favour tax cuts over our public health system,” he said.

“Midwives I’ve met and spoken with have reinforced for me what a demanding and incredibly important job they do. I am listening to their concerns and taking them seriously.

“Too many of our community-based midwives are stretched beyond capacity. There are issues of professional isolation, burnout and attrition.”

It was not just a pay issue, but one of long working hours, caseloads and how midwives can work more closely with the wider Primary Care sector, including Plunket.

“I am working on an urgent response in the May Budget. However, I would warn that after nine years of underfunding we face many challenges in health, and we won’t be able to do everything in one Budget.”

National’s health spokesman Jonathan Coleman said Clark could only keep saying he’d inherited a mess for so long, and now was the time when “the rubber hits the road” in terms of delivering on election campaign promises.

“Labour campaigned on putting more money into the health system, they’ve said they’ll put an extra $8 billion into health in the next four years,” he said.

“That raised expectations for midwives so now it’s delivery time.”

In the lead-up to the march, local lobbying actions around the country were being organised by midwives in the regions as and when they could.

So far midwives in Tauranga had been most successful in setting up a time to talk with their local MPs, but responses from politicians were becoming more frequent as the issue gained traction, Ramsay said.

Source: NZ Herald

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