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College of Midwives Hopeful Health Money Announced in Budget Includes Maternity

Thursday 30 May 2024, 3:32PM

By RedPR

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NZCOM Midwifery Advisor, Violet Clapham
NZCOM Midwifery Advisor, Violet Clapham Credit: Supplied

Tax cuts for “the squeezed middle” will help some families as they struggle with the cost-of-living crisis, and the College of Midwives says they are hopeful that the $17b announced for health will include money for maternity services.

College Midwifery Advisor, Violet Clapham says they look forward to receiving more detail.

"There looks to be around $8b earmarked within the health funding announced today, for “delivering primary, community, public, and population health services”. As families in some parts of the country face an increasing struggle to access maternity care, we hope that the Government will have money tagged in that pot to address this inequitable access,” says Ms Clapham.

As covered in the media recently, women have to pay a surcharge for scans in some areas but not others; midwives are available in some areas but not others; primary birthing facilities are available in some areas but not others.

“We must have consistency across the sector and that requires strategic leadership and equitable resourcing,” she says. “Women should be able to access maternity care wherever they live and there are areas of the country where existing health inequities make this even more important".

 

Ms Clapham says the lack of consistency in and variation of service availability is causing stress for both women and midwives, and this is nothing new.

 

“We hope that details around the health funding announced in the budget today will make a real difference to the support systems around the midwifery workforce. We need more midwives on the ground and there is plenty the government can do to stabilise and bolster the workforce,” she says.

 

Midwifery has the biggest shortfall in workforce numbers of any sector in the health system; about 40% short of the number of midwives needed to provide full, funded care to mothers and babies in our communities[1]. Qualified midwives who have left the profession could be enticed back to work with the right structural and financial supports from the government.

 

For several years, the College has been calling for the establishment of a national support organisation for community midwives, as general practice and other primary healthcare providers have. Rural midwives are in particular need of extra support, experiencing increasing costs of delivering services across remote areas, and having to travel long distances for acute call outs. 

"Midwives want to see all families receive safe and equitable maternity care. In order to achieve this, midwives must be better recognised and supported by the government. The College has been arguing for years that urgent action must be taken to address inadequate structural support and outdated funding models to ensure midwifery care remains fully funded and accessible to all who need it," says Ms Clapham.

The College and some 1,500 community-based midwives are taking a representative action against the Government alleging that it breached a settlement agreement requiring the Government to, among other things, implement a new national contracting model for community-based midwives by July 2020, including the right to renegotiate their pay annually and to ensure community-based midwives receive fair and reasonable pay for their work.  

The case is set down to be heard in the High Court at Wellington for six weeks from 5 August 2024.

-Ends-

[1] Te Whatu Ora Health Workforce Plan 2023/24 https://www.tewhatuora.govt.nz/publications/health-workforce-plan-202324/