On December 12th, the College of Midwives of Ontario released a statement announcing that after twenty-five years of receiving funding, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care would no longer be providing operational grants to the college. Not only did this come as a blow for future funding, but it was also applied retroactively, denying the college funds they expected to cover this year’s expenses.
“We were also advised that this decision is retroactive to April 1, 2018. This means that the funding we had anticipated for the current fiscal year will not be received. We received this news on November 8, 2018, eight months into our fiscal year,” reads the statement.
As a consequence, the college will be operating with a deficit for the rest of the 2018/2019 fiscal year and anticipates continuing to do so until at least 2021.
“The College has been working on a plan to ensure that the impact of these changes on members is minimal. These changes will have no impact on the public. We cannot cut our services and programs, as the College’s work is mandated by our governing legislation. We are seeking efficiencies at the College, both operationally and in our Council. It is likely that midwives will have to pay more to the College on an annual basis,” the College adds.
With changes to quality sex education and cuts to midwifery practices, it seems Doug Ford is hell-bent on ensuring that not only are there more unplanned pregnancies but that the care new babies and mothers receive is minimized.
It’s hard to see a rational thought process here.
Midwives in Ontario are medical professionals. They require a Bachelor’s degree and a Masters degree. They have hospital privileges, can prescribe some medications, and are experts in pregnancy, labour, and delivery. They have the equipment and skills to resuscitate infants. They are not some “hippy” trend, they are full-fledged professionals who have completed thousands of hours of training and education.
Midwives reduce strain on an already over-burdened health system. In most healthy pregnancies, there is no need to see a doctor. Unlike with an OB/GYN, where a pregnant person usually sees their family doctor until the later stages of pregnancy, occupying appointments that could be used for people who are sick, midwives start seeing their clients from the moment they learn they are pregnant. In addition to freeing up medical space, this helps foster a continuity of care.
Midwives are worth their weight in gold. Having had a birth under the care of an OB/GYN and another under the care of midwives, I can attest to the difference in care. While one is not necessarily better than the other, and much of it comes down to preference, I had a much better experience with my midwives, and nearly everyone I know who gave birth with the help of midwives says the same. The care is more personalized and accessible. There are typically fewer interventions and a far more relaxed feeling overall. If we were to have another baby, I would choose a midwife again without hesitation.
If cutting costs is what Ford is concerned with, these cuts make little sense. When I had an urgent question for my midwife, I paged her. Much of the time, we were able to resolve it over the phone, without the need for a visit. If I had an urgent question or concern for my OB/GYN and it was after hours, I had to go to the ER or Labour and Delivery at the hospital – far more costly to the government than a phone call to my midwife.
Fewer interventions also mean less cost. We have seen the huge hospital bills racked up by new parents in the United States. Every intervention, every small hospital service costs money. Most midwife clients leave the hospital hours after birth. My entire hospital stay, including labour, delivery, and post-partum recovery, was less than twelve hours. This is possible because midwives come to their clients’ houses for a check-up the next day, and several times the first week after birth. Most OB/GYN deliveries are followed by at least a twenty-four-hour hospital stay. All of this costs more money to the government. If cost-cutting is the goal, we should be giving more funding to the College to encourage putting more midwives into practice.
I hope the public outcry is enough to make Ford rethink this action. If not, I hope that voters will remember this come the next provincial election.