Lower Hutt ‘unsustainable’ midwifery service closes its doors | 1 NEWS
A midwifery organization in Wellington’s Lower Hutt will close its doors for good at the end of this year.
As of 2020, the Birthworks team was made up of five women, but only two midwives are working there now and the pair say they can no longer cope.
Jessica Evans and Kelly Jackson-Sagmyr spoke exclusively to 1 NEWS about the issues they have faced during their multi-year careers.
“I make less money as a licensed midwife than as a 22-year-old single mom,” Evans said.
She chose the profession of midwifery after her own experience with a Birthworks midwife.
Fifteen years later, she left the industry.
“It was a huge decision for me. I tried my luck, as a young single mother with a good job, to leave and become a midwife. I did it to improve my life and that of my son, and I wanted a career; a career for life. “
I feel incredibly sad, 15 years later, that this is the end of my career. “
The two women say the decision to shut down Birthworks and stop taking new clients from the end of this year has been extremely difficult.
“We have the impression of abandoning the profession. It’s hard not to blame yourself, ”Evans said.
“We’ve been losing midwives for years and years, it’s been really well publicized and documented. We are losing them because it is not sustainable, with the lack of funding and the lack of midwives to provide the service.
Health Minister Andrew Little today acknowledged the shortage of community midwives, calling midwives “the backbone of our health system”.
He said more needs to be done to make the job more attractive.
Maternity care midwives, or community midwives, are paid in stages throughout pregnancy, with the first payment not being made until their client has reached 28 weeks.
As contractors to the Department of Health, they don’t decide their rate of pay – it’s dictated by the government body.
LMC midwives do not receive paid sick leave or paid time off, and should be active year-round, 24/7.
Jackson-Sagmyr said the repeatedly failed payment negotiations and skyrocketing customer inquiries were too much to handle.
“It feels like we’re being thrown in breadcrumbs and expected to keep going. Midwives have been screaming and crying for help for so long that they become hoarse. And the government doesn’t seem to hear or understand what that looks like on the waistline and what we’re trying to do with a severely underfunded system, ”she said.
Birthworks has been in operation since the 90s, so its closure later this year will be a big blow to the Lower Hutt community.
Kristal Sargent, Evans’ new mom and client, is worried about who she’ll use as a midwife if she has another baby.
“There are going to be a lot of people like me who really don’t know what to do. It’s going to leave us in a position where we’re forced to do something we don’t want, ”she told 1 NEWS.
She said having Evans as a midwife made her pregnancy much easier than she had imagined.
“I saw Jess for almost two hours sometimes because she gave me time. Sometimes she was awake two nights in a row, but then she’s there for me 100%, then she’s there for the next person.
“Why the hell aren’t these amazing people who give their hearts and souls paid what they’re worth? Why is it like this? It is terrible. It’s horrible.”
Evans said that by the end of this year there will only be 14 registered midwives working in the Hutt Valley.
“If they take an average of 40 wives a year, it doesn’t do much when the Hutt Valley’s birth population is between 2,000 and 2,500 a year.”
She worries with no choice, women will be forced to use a maternity caregiver they don’t want.
“Some will have to enter the fragmented hospital system. “
The two midwives said a significant part of their daily workload was simply contacting women who had messaged asking for their service.
“Some of them are angry; they called 12 more and got no. It weighed heavily on us and it was emotionally scary. Women will beg and cry on the phone. We want to support them, but we can’t.
Jackson-Sagmyr said every woman they turn down is another woman who potentially puts pressure on hospital midwives.
“They work so hard, and we know this will only increase the pressure on them, as well as the community. But it’s just too hard.
New Zealand College of Midwives CEO Alison Eddy said Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin are areas of the country facing significant shortages of midwives due to the high number of people leaving the profession.
“There is relatively widespread concern and dissatisfaction with the community midwifery funding model. This does not bode well for the retention of our workforce, ”she said.
In the 2020 budget, $ 85 million was pledged to the industry to improve the wages of midwives working in rural areas or dealing with complex pregnancies.
The money is to be spread over four years with the first round of increased payments in November of this year.
Neither Evans nor Jackson-Sagmyr have any plans for what they will do next; they’re too busy with their current workloads to even think about it.
“We’re both always busy and the job is so demanding, rewarding but demanding that we haven’t had time to think this far,” Jackson-Sagmyr said.
While any further funding increase is too small and too late for the couple, they have hopes for the future of the industry.
“A lot of people say that spending money on a problem won’t solve it, but it will. This will keep midwives in the profession, ”said Evans.
“Correct the funding model”.