Extra midwifery funding in Budget seen as too little too late for some struggling midwives and has dismayed the College of Midwives which is exploring “options”.
Alison Eddy, deputy chief executive of the College of Midwives said the extra $103m over four years will fall “very short” of meeting a decade of underfunding for midwives.
She said midwives were largely underwhelmed – particularly struggling rural midwives – and social media posts this morning indicates that it is not enough to stop some midwives walking away from the profession. And some members were calling on the College to take the pay equity fight back to court. “Some members think that’s the right option but we’re not sure.” Eddy said it was exploring its options in response to the disappointing Budget and couldn’t comment at this stage about whether returning to Court was one of those options.
The College of Midwives in May last year withdrew its historic 2015 pay equity court claim in return for an interim six per cent fee increase and the chance to co-design a new funding model for lead maternity care (LMC) midwives to address the long-standing pay equity issues.
Health Minister David Clark said in announcing the extra maternity funding that the Government had been listening to the concerns of midwives and there was no question that LMC midwives fees had not kept pace with their DHB-employed midwife colleagues. “That is simply not fair and the 8.9% increase (in the budget) will address that gap.”
But Eddy said it was dismayed that the Government had chosen to only pick out some elements of the co-design model put forward by the College and – after the increase in numbers of births and ultrasound costs are factored in – the $103.6m only equates to about an extra $19m a year towards meeting midwifery’s pay equity claim.
The Budget funding allows for an 8.9 per cent fee increase for LMC midwives which the College says equates to about an additional $200 per woman over nine months of midwifery care. The Budget announcement does also include $10m over two years to recognise the business costs faced by self-employed midwives and $16m over four years to help midwives pay for a midwifery colleague to provide cover for their clients and ensure safer hours.
But Eddy says this fall far short of the extra funding sought under the co-design model to cover on-call costs, self-employed business costs, coverage for second midwives and incentive payments for midwives working in hard-to-staff areas. She said the College couldn’t release publicly the details of the co-design model, as it was covered by a confidentiality agreement, but the Budget announcement fell short of meeting the funding gap calculated by the College when comparing LMC midwives income to similar self-employed health professionals.
Eddy said the College met with Ministry of Health officials yesterday after the Budget and they were saying they wanted to develop a new contract, to replace the current one by 2020 which it was ‘guardedly optimistic’ about providing an opportunity to negotiate further.
Clark said the Budget increased had been calculated using a range of factors, including CPI and DHB collective agreement increases, and meant that average annual increases over the last decade for community midwives were now in line with average increases for DHB midwives.
“Everyone wants our midwives to be practising in a safe way, and midwives want mothers and babies to be safe. This is the first step to make sure the whole system is working as it should,” says David Clark.
LMC midwives fought a case for equal pay for work of equal value in 1993 through the Maternity Benefits Tribunal and won, but the last major pay boost had been in 2007 with only several small inflation increases in the decade since.
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