6 Mar 2018

Health Minister moves to improve pay, conditions for NZ midwives

From Checkpoint, 5:43 pm on 6 March 2018

Health Minister David Clark says he is working on an urgent response to midwives' pay and working conditions ahead of this year's budget.

That comes after midwives - who say they are sick of being overworked, underpaid and exhausted - launched a social media campaign to get their messages across to Dr Clark.

The 'Dear David, Aotearoa needs more midwives' Facebook page was launched last Tuesday and messages were coming in almost every minute by Friday.

Some of the messages were from women expressing support for their midwives, but most were from midwives themselves, who said they were being driven to leave.

New Zealand midwives working in Australia say they are paid almost three times more and have better working conditions. They say they wouldn't return to work in New Zealand until things change. 

Speaking to Checkpoint with John Campbell, Dr Clark said he was taking the issue seriously. 

"I want to say upfront to start with that I accept that we've got a problem here. Too many of our midwives feel stretched beyond capacity.

"We have inherited a mess."

And he said he was listening to what midwives were saying.

"This is not just a matter of pay. It's actually about the sustainability of the model."

The New Zealand system was very different to Australia's, he said.

"I think we have to address the whole system."

There was clearly a disparity in pay between District Health Board midwives and independent midwives working in the community, Dr Clark said.

"In the short-term, I am working on an urgent response in the May budget."

He had also asked the new acting Director-General of Health to meet with the College of Midwives.

"We won't solve everything in one budget but I think the concerns of midwives are real," he said.

Fixing the issue would not happen overnight.

"The message from me is that I am listening and I am taking their concerns seriously ... I'm personally committed to sorting it out."