By: Emma Russell

A Whanganui midwife says she will be forced to give up the profession she loves if the “midwifery crisis” is not taken seriously.

The New Zealand College of Midwives has estimated rural midwives such as Whanganui’s Jessica Mill are earning around $7.38 an hour after tax and expenses. The college says the profession is at breaking point.

Mill, a solo mother of two children under 5, admitted there are some days when she struggles to get food on her children’s plates.

“I pay about $300 a week for child-care because I’m on-call 24/7. I am the mum who never makes it to birthday parties. It’s tough.”

She said she became a midwife because she was passionate about helping mothers and babies.

“But the Government are relying on that passion and love to keep the profession alive.

“The truth is we are all burnt out and the system is failing,” Mill said.

Mill is a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) midwife which meant she was self-employed and claimed her pay from the Government.

LMC midwives worked in the community and took on caseloads of pregnant woman as they saw fit.

The Government paid LMC midwives the same amount per woman cared for, about $2300, and pay did not increase with experience or complex pregnancies.

Mill said Whanganui was unique as there was no lack of midwives but living in a rural area, where travel expenses were not covered, meant LMCs were burnt out.

“We love our work but we do so much of it for free and I hear the same thing from all the midwives I work with. We need a better pay system.”

She said, like any parent, she has to juggle her caseload with her own children.

“On average I take on two or three women a month and that’s on-call care for each, but that’s probably less than most.”

Ten weeks ago, Whanganui mother Te Maari Barham gave birth to Faye Davis, her first child.

Barham moved to Whanganui in the early stages of her pregnancy and sought out Mill for care.

“Jess was amazing throughout everything. The amount of work that Jess did was above and beyond.

“Faye had a dramatic birth and I don’t think she would be here without Jess. With all the work midwives do, they should be paid more.”

The Wanganui Chronicle sought comment from the Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) and received a statement:

“Midwives provide a valuable service for mothers and babies. We currently have sufficient numbers of midwives in Whanganui,” said WDHB midwifery adviser Cheryl Benn.

New Zealand College of Midwives chief executive Karen Guilliland has said she has been hearing an increasing number of stories from around the country of severe shortages as midwives continued to leave the profession.

“The college began fighting for pay equity for midwives three years ago when we began court action under the previous government.

“This action led to an agreement between the college and the Ministry of Health to design a new funding model for community-based [LMC] midwives.

“We have presented our recommendations to the ministry’s leadership team and the new Minister of Health.

“At this stage, we have no certainty that the recommendations from the co-design will be accepted, or funded,” Guilliland said.

On May 3, MIll planned to join midwives from all over New Zealand to march at Parliament, calling on the Government to act urgently.

Facts:

  • Rural remote LMC midwives are earning approximately $7.38 an hour (after tax and expenses) and urban LMC midwives are earning around $12.80 (after tax and expenses).
  • LMC midwives haven’t been able to negotiate the terms of their contract since 2007.
  • There are 18 LMC midwives working in Whanganui.
  • Last year, there were 706 births at the Whanganui Hospital (this doesn’t include home births).
  • LMC midwives provide care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout pregnancy and for six weeks after birth.
  • LMC midwives do not get paid leave.
  • The pay does not vary based on experience.
  • The pay does not vary based on location.
  • Travel is not billable.

Source: NZ Herald

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