Midwifery expansion may come next year

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The territorial health department is aiming to begin rolling out a territorial midwifery program in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Carol Amirault, director of territorial health services, said the GNWT’s midwifery working group last met face-to-face in April to develop a draft model for a territorial midwifery program – both on program design and how it could be integrated into existing clinical settings.

“It’s a priority for us to ensure that we support the current midwifery services offered in Fort Smith in Hay River with potential expansion of the Hay River program,” said Amirault.

“We are hoping that this expanded model will not only include expansion to Hay River, but also a model here in Yellowknife that would be able to provide regional support as well as support in the primary and acute care settings.”

The GNWT suspended Yellowknife-based midwifery services in 2011 to develop a territorial program.

Last year, it released a “stakeholder engagement report” from sharing circles and interviews held across the NWT, as well as an online survey. The feedback highlighted issues NWT mothers have with the choices available for them for delivery, supports before and after birth, lack of tracking for birth outcomes, lack of a recruitment and retention plan to stabilize the current midwifery program and lack of Indigenous maternity supports, among other things.

The working group is now attempting to develop a program that will address these concerns, though some items from the report – such as approving escorts for mothers flying from smaller communities to give birth in Yellowknife – have been put in place already.

Ten main recommendations came out of the report, including recommendations that the existing midwifery programs in Fort Smith and Hay River be strengthened; that a recruitment and retention plan be developed for midwives; that expansion of the program be looked at for the existing communities, as well as Yellowknife, the Beaufort Delta and Behchoko; and that the GNWT formalize training for midwives.

Currently, there are two midwives in both Fort Smith and in Hay River, as well as a midwifery consultant employed with the health department that also provides midwifery services in the Fort Smith region.

Amirault did not provide numbers for how many midwives may be hired with the new territorial program, saying the program it still in draft form.

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