Only days after Alberta midwives and supporters rallied to call on the province to pay for midwifery services, the minister of health says he's planning to do that as part of his health-care reforms.

Ron Liepert made the comment while responding to an opposition question in the legislature Wednesday.

The government will introduce changes that will give parents the choice of using either a doctor or a midwife to handle the birth of their children, and both would be paid for by the government, Liepert said.


Dozens of people gathered at the Alberta legislature Monday over the lunch hour to call for the government to pay to fund midwives. ((CBC))

Currently, parents who want to use midwives have to pay for the service, at a cost of about $3,500.

"A profession like midwives is less taxing on the system than using traditional doctors," Liepert told reporters outside the legislature.

In mid-April Liepert announced the government plans to overhaul the province's health-care system in a bid to improve accessibility and stem rising costs. The minister said part of that plan would include giving pharmacists and others more scope to provide services normally handled by doctors.

Liepert said more details of the proposed changes would be made public within a few months.

Dozens of parents and midwives demonstrated in Calgary and Edmonton on Monday to mark International Day of the Midwife and to call attention to the fact that Alberta is one of few provinces that does not pay for the service.

British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have midwifery legislation, while Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are moving toward regulation

"Somebody seems to have finally paid a bit of attention," Edmonton midwife Barbara Scriver told CBC News late Wednesday.

Despite years of lobbying by midwives and their supporters, she said, it appears the rapid growth of the province has finally pushed the government to act.

"It sounds like the biggest reason seems to be that there is not enough physicians to meet the need for maternity care," she said

Scriver said it may take some time before midwives can handle a significant number of births because many midwives have left the province because of the government's lack of action.