3 May 2018

Midwives march on Parliament over poor pay, staffing

8:48 am on 3 May 2018

Midwives who say they're overworked, stressed and underpaid are today marching on Parliament to rally for better pay and conditions.

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Photo: 123RF

Those working in the industry have warned of understaffing because of poor pay and say the government needs to put a new funding model into place.

Kāpiti midwife Andrea Sarty said urgent change was needed as midwives were being short-changed for their work.

"I added up the number of post-natal visits that I do for women and it came out to an average of 11.5 per women.

"You only get the extra bonus visits payment if you make 12 visits for each woman, so that's four and a half visits I've been doing for free for the Ministry of Health," she said.

Kelly Pidgeon has travelled from Tauranga for today's march. She said expectant mothers are being driven to tears by the lack of midwives.

"This week alone I have turned down at least ten women for December that I cannot take on because I'm already past my capacity for that."

The Health Minister, who said he's working to improve the midwifery sector, will be meeting the group, but won't be drawn on what funding they're likely to receive in the upcoming Budget.

Cambridge midwife Jenny Batey-Myles has also travelled to Wellington for the march, but she said getting away from work isn't easy.

"I was up at four o'clock this morning and had a birth at seven, left the hospital at nine, drove to a rural town and did a post-natal visit, went and handed over to the locum - that we're paying so we can come away - dropped off our notes and then went home and packed."

Ms Batey-Myles said her midwifery partner had also travelled to Wellington for the occasion and it was the first time in three and a half years that they had had a night off together.

The College of Midwives said the average hourly take home pay for rural midwives was just over $7.20 per hour - less than half of the minimum wage.

That figure is around $12.80 for urban midwives.

College of Midwives midwifery advisor Alison Eddy said they had worked with the Ministry of Health to design a new funding model that was now being considered by the government.

"We looked at it from a pay equity lens as well so, if you're looking at professions of similar responsibility, similar education, similar working conditions, we consider it needs to go up considerably.

"We'll have to wait and see how the government responds to that," she said.

Ms Eddy said details of the funding model were confidential and they were waiting to see how it fared when the Budget is revealed.

Health Minister David Clark said he was listening to midwives' concerns and would be meeting with them at Parliament today.

In a statement he said too many midwives were being stretched beyond capacity.

"There are issues of professional isolation, burnout and attrition. This is not just a pay issue. There is more work to be done looking at hours of work, caseloads and how midwives can work more closely with the wider Primary Care sector."

Dr Clark said the Budget would include a package which would start to address midwives' concerns.

Marches are also taking place in Auckland and Christchurch today.

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