Midwifery care will soon be available, Yukon gov't says

·2 min read
Whitehorse General Hospital. The Yukon government announced it's launching it's midwifery program this summer. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)
Whitehorse General Hospital. The Yukon government announced it's launching it's midwifery program this summer. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)

The Yukon government will offer midwifery services in Whitehorse in July.

Elizabeth Morrison, program manager and registered midwife, said the midwifery is now fully integrated into the territorial healthcare system. She added while it's taken time, the change will pay dividends for families.

"This has never happened before in the Yukon, where midwives are able to order labs, ultrasounds, prescribe medications, midwives in our program will have hospital privileges, they will be able to deliver babies in and out of the hospital," Morrison said, noting staff will perform prenatal as well as postpartum care.

The government has hired two midwives so far. In the coming weeks, Morrison said two more will be brought on board.

"The pieces are in place, we're really ready, it's going to be really high quality and comprehensive," she said.

The program, which is free, is available to clients in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, to start.

'Dismal salary'

Sofia Ashley, the co-chair of the Yukon Association of Birth Choices, told CBC News that, while the program is positive for the territory overall, there are outstanding concerns, starting with the midwives' salaries.

"We're happy that they, after three hiring rounds, were able to successfully hire some midwives, even at the dismal salary that they listed," she said.

According to the Yukon government's collective bargaining agreement, the pay scale for midwives is a base salary of roughly $85,000 per year.

Ashley said government-employed midwives in the Yukon are being lowballed, earning about $20,000 less than their counterparts in the Northwest Territories.

"The salary needs to be changed to be commensurate with and competitive with the work realities in the North," she said.

"As an association, we're eager to work with the government to find out more of the details on the implementation for July to just really make sure that the values and perspective and worldview of midwifery is upheld within a government regulated system in the Yukon."

Morrison, the program manager, said her team is working with the Yukon Employees' Union to ensure midwives are fairly compensated.

'Handled so badly'

Midwifery regulations were in place for more than a year before the government announced its program launch this week.

Brad Cathers, the Yukon Party's health critic, said for too long there's been a serious gap in services, with zero midwives practicing in the territory. He added that problem falls squarely on the government.

"They imposed the regulations, which took effect April 15 last year, but they weren't actually ready to provide the programming, and effectively what they did was ban midwifery in private practice," Cathers said.

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