Heavy workload complaints in the OB/GYN and neonatal units at Winnipeg's St. Boniface Hospital have Manitoba's opposition politicians asking questions.

Progressive Conservative health critic Cameron Friesen wants to know if the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's new birth centre could alleviate some of the stress at St. Boniface.

On Tuesday, CBC News reported concerns from nurses over heavy workload complaints on those units.

Midwife-assisted births

The number of midwife-assisted births so far in 2012, between January and the end of August, at the following Winnipeg facilities:

  • Health Sciences Centre: 74.
  • St. Boniface Hospital: 155.
  • Birth Centre: 78.

(Source: Winnipeg Regional Health Authority)

Since the birth centre opened in December 2011, just 95 babies have been born there, though it has an annual capacity of 500. At least 78 of those births took place this year.

Still, Health Minister Theresa Oswald maintains that the centre is right on target.

"We never stated that 500 would come out of the gate," she said.

"We knew that in the first year there would be approximately 100 births because moms develop birth plans with their health-care professionals. They don't usually change that while they're expecting and having things unfold."

The WRHA has said the strong demand for midwives across the country is having an effect on how many deliveries can happen at the new facility.

Oswald said she expects the new birth centre will alleviate some of the pressure on hospitals down the road, once more people learn what it has to offer.

The WRHA says approximately 500 midwife-assisted births take place in Winnipeg each year, and about 70 per cent of women who request a midwife do not get one.

Baby boom

Manitoba is in the midst of a baby boom.

The number of births in the province has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years. Manitoba's chief statistician Wilf Falk says in the past year there were 16,250 births, or about 400 more than the previous year.

"Another little factoid for you is that the number of births is now the highest it has been in 17 years," he said.

Falk says part of the reason for the increase is the number of new Canadians coming to the province.

'We have more immigrants in Manitoba over the last number of years and some of these immigrants come from countries who tend to have a higher fertility rate than our domestic fertility rate."