Many families seeking the support of a midwife are turned away in Manitoba. And while recent midwifery graduates would like to help meet the demand, they say not enough positions exist.
"We're Manitoba educated and very eager to serve within our province," Bethany Rempel, a recent midwifery graduate explains.
Rempel says it's the frustrating reality facing midwives in Manitoba, made worse by the fact the latest graduating class of midwives don't have any new positions available in the province.
Rempel says in her experience working at the Winkler Midwifery Clinic they've been forced to turn away half of all potential clients due to lack of staff.
"We need the government to open up positions for midwives in Manitoba," she says. "And be involved with midwives to create initiatives to open clinics for other rural communities to access midwifery care."
Local supporters and advocates held a rally on Thursday at the office of Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen.
Friesen notes he recently met with the Canadian Association of Midwives and the Manitoba Association of Midwives. "We had a good exchange... more and more families are wanting to have a birth experience that doesn't involve going to a hospital If they don't need it to."
He adds the government is currently creating a central plan in Manitoba to provide needed services when it comes to women's health, obstetrics, and midwives.
"I still welcome the conversation and will continue to... talk about what it means in the future to bring these services closer to communities."
Rempel explains midwifery has been proven to be cost-effective, and to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes on a global scale, adding it's supported by the SEC, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.
"Midwives provide excellent evidence-based care during pregnancy birth, and for six weeks postpartum," Rempel explains, noting midwifery services are covered for Manitoba residents with provincial health coverage.
Unfortunately, she notes many communities do not have local midwifery teams. Communities like the Interlake, The Pas, and Flin Flon do not have access to midwives unless they drive to the Winkler Clinic.
"These rural regions are underserved," Sarah Davis, President of the Midwives Association, says. "Almost half of the people who apply for services are turned away. And this is a service that's never been promoted. It's never been advertised... So these are people who have sought out a service themselves and half of them can't get it in this region."
Davis adds there are no vacant positions in Manitoba, noting if all new grads were hired the midwifery workforce would increase by 20 percent. "That's significant for us because we have a workforce that has not reached a critical mass to serve all the areas. And if we have a plan to expand into more regions we have to build our workforce now... So it's really crucial that we get all of our new registrants hired."
She notes there are 52 practicing midwives in the province, approximately 30 of them are in Winnipeg.
The Midwives Association of Manitoba has been operating for 19 years, regulating midwifery care and providing services to 1,800 families last year.