By: Zoe Hunter
Tauranga midwife Cara Kellett sometimes works up to 80 hours a week and sacrifices sleep to keep up with her workload.
Kellett is part of a collective of midwives appealing to the Government to urgently deal with a “crisis” in their sector. They say pregnant women are struggling to get maternity care.
Tauranga, Auckland, Canterbury and parts of the Waikato are among areas understood to be suffering from the shortage.
Kellett said 13 midwives in Tauranga either retired, changed professions or went into the district health board last year which left fewer community midwives.
The 34-year-old independent midwife at Bay Midwifery Centre in Greerton said it was the first time Tauranga women had struggled to find midwives.
Kellett said she worked up to 80 hours a week answering phone calls, text messages, completing home visits, deliveries and travel because of the demand.
She once answered four calls in one day from expectant mothers looking for a midwife.
“This is a very difficult job, we are on call 24/7. We take two cars out for dinner just in case I am called out, it is such a demand on our family.
“I once delivered three babies in 24 hours. It is a career for life, I just hope I don’t burn out.”
Despite the long hours, Kellett said she would not change her job and enjoyed the changing nature of her role.
“I love the fact that we are there in such an important part of these women’s lives. Imagine how that must feel. Midwifery makes a difference.
“It is an incredibly demanding position. It takes a special type of person to be a midwife out in the community.”
To combat the shortage, Kellett said the Government needed to recognise the hard, long hours midwives worked and were not reimbursed for.
Tauranga’s Pregnancy Choice director, Janice Tetley-Jones, said two of its three midwives had resigned in the past few months.
Tetley-Jones said they supported women who had an unplanned or “crisis” pregnancy and advised women to find a midwife, however, there was a service shortage in the area.
Bay of Plenty DHB midwifery manager Annette Harris said a population-based study by the Ministry of Health indicated a shortage of midwives in the Bay of Plenty.
There were 53 lead maternity carer midwives in Tauranga. In addition, there were 34 permanent DHB midwives and 15 casual staff who regularly worked with the DHB, said Harris.
“We are currently working with women who are unable to find a midwife and providing interim care or complete care as necessary, until/if we find a lead maternity carer for them.
“We are currently collaborating with all stakeholders to work through finding solutions,” said Harris.
Immigration New Zealand added midwives to the “immediate skill shortage” list in December.
The New Zealand 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.
“We have presented our recommendations to the ministry’s leadership team and the new Minister of Health,” College of Midwives chief executive Karen Guilliland said.
“At this stage, we have no certainty that the recommendations from the co-design will be accepted, or funded.”
The Budget will be delivered on May 17.
How many midwives?
- 3152 practising midwives in New Zealand counted in the year to March 31,
2017. (3133 in 2016)
- 127 registered New Zealand-educated midwives in the year to March 31, 2017. (130 in 2016)
- 47 midwifery graduates in New Zealand in 2013-2014
- 127 midwifery graduates in New Zealand in 2016-2017
Source: Midwifery Council of New Zealand
Source: NZ Herald