A petition demanding publicly funded midwifery in the Yukon has garnered hundreds of signatures, due to the territorial government’s delay in delivering the promised regulation.
“We thought we were getting somewhere with midwifery,” Rosemary Osmand, a director at the Community Midwifery Association Yukon, told the Star recently.
“(The Yukon government) said by the end of 2019, they wanted to have midwifery implemented and funded – that’s almost a year ago.”
The board of directors launched its online petition on Sept 1. As of noon today, the petition had garnered 813 signatures. http://chng.it/R4jgDRK8Zy
Osmand said the petition aims to raise local awareness.
“We just wanted to let people know, again, that midwifery is still not regulated here,” Osmand said.
“It’s come up a few times, it resurfaces and people get energized and then it goes dormant and people think, ‘Oh, it’s been done now,’ but it’s still not done.”
Osmand said the high number of respondents to the petition is encouraging, and suggests that Yukoners want to see midwifery funded in the territory.
“So far, we’ve had a positive response,” Osmand said.
“When I read through the comments, it’s from people who have had access to a midwife in other jurisdictions or people who want to birth in the communities.”
Currently, expectant parents in the communities must give birth in one of the Yukon’s hospitals.
Osmand noted that in order to travel to hospital, some families must either arrange for childcare or one partner must stay behind.
“I think it can be quite difficult for some families,” Osmand said.
“It’s just a lot of stress during a time when you don’t want that.”
The Yukon is currently the only Canadian jurisdiction that doesn’t regulate and publicly fund midwifery. There are two midwives who call the territory home and are licensed through other jurisdictions.
Yukon families who desire midwifery services must pay the fee out-of-pocket, which makes it prohibitively expensive for most.
The lack of regulation also means that families who opt for home birth aren’t able to transfer to hospital with their midwife during labour.
“We want midwifery to be regulated, so that it’s co-ordinated with the rest of the healthcare system,” Osmand said.
“We want to be able to transfer care to a doctor, if necessary…. The whole system can work very cohesively together to provide optimal care for families who choose it.”
Osmand said the Yukon’s two midwives are both currently working outside of the territory, which is required to maintain their registration and to ensure they’re fully prepared to work in the Yukon when the opportunity arises.
Osmand called it “just baffling” that midwifery has not been regulated in the Yukon yet.
“In other jurisdictions around the world, midwifery is really the top system of choice for women,” Osmand said.
“It’s evidence-based and puts the decision-making and power back in the women’s hands.
“It’s safe, it’s effective, it’s everything we could want, it’s just such a huge opportunity that we’re missing out on here.”
Last February, the government announced it had selected a model of care for midwifery.
Midwives will eventually be government employees. The first action under the approved model will be to hire a midwifery consultant to co-ordinate the planning and program implementation.
The position will be responsible for leading an implementation advisory committee. The model of care will take a phased approach starting with full midwifery services being offered in Whitehorse.
The government said last February that final regulations would be introduced this year.
Clarissa Wall, a Department of Health and Social Services spokeswoman, told the Star in an email last Wednesday that midwifery is still a priority.
Wall said draft regulations and framework have been completed, and department staff are now implementing feedback from physicians, midwives, regulators from other jurisdictions and the Yukon Hospital Corp.
“We remain on track to have a finalized regulation by the end of 2020, and are continuing to work towards enabling midwives to begin practising by the fall of 2021,” Wall said.
“We appreciate the ongoing support from the community and across the country.
“Successful implementation of midwifery will take the support of all our health care providers, and we look forward to working with them.”