The Department of Health has scrapped funding for the Midwifery Council of New Brunswick that had been working for several years to set up the specialized practice in the province.

The former Liberal government adopted legislation in 2008 and regulations were adopted in 2010 to allow for midwives.

The midwifery council has been attempting to set up the practice but last month the provincial government revoked its annual funding of $10,000.


There are no licensed midwives working in the province despite legislation that was passed in 2008. (CBC)

Nathalie Pambrun, the president of the Midwives Association of New Brunswick, said people who want to see midwives working in the province need to speak up.

"I think that historically, what has moved midwifery forward in all the other Canadian provinces, is actually the women and the families and them sharing their stories and being able to say that this is the option that we actually want, this is the kind of care that we want to be receiving," Pambrun said.

"This is a call to action for those women and those families to really voice that this something and is a service that is really important to them."

Midwives help women in their pregnancies, including deliveries, often in their homes.

Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Yukon are the only other places in Canada without practising legislated midwives.

Health Minister Ted Flemming was not available for an interview to explain the decision to eliminate the midwifery council’s funding.

But Flemming defended the decision to halt the funding in a statement emailed to CBC News by a health department official.

"In this time of change, the department has decided to postpone the introduction of midwives. It does not seem prudent to introduce a new profession in the midst of systemic change," the email said.

"In addition, the fiscal challenges make it more complicated. In order for midwives to provide 24/7 coverage and to work to their fullest scope of practice, midwives should be hired in teams of four. The approximate cost for one midwife per year is $190,000 (or $760,000 per team), including salary, liability insurance, office costs, travel and other expenses."

The Midwifery Council of New Brunswick has sent a letter to Flemming, asking the health minister to reverse his decision and restore funding to the organization.

Without access to a midwife, the council said women and their families will leave the province, looking for access to this service.

Pambrun and her family have just welcomed a new baby and they were forced to temporarily move to Nova Scotia to access a midwife.

Pambrun said the association is constantly hearing from women and families who want more individualized care.

The provincial government’s reluctance to fund the service comes at an unfortunate time, she said.

"We're kind of losing this momentum and this opportunity where women won't have access to this service," she said.

Pambrun said she is not the only woman who has left New Brunswick to get a midwife. 

When the midwives legislation was approved, the intention was to have licensed midwives become employees of the regional health authorities and have their services funded through the health department.

In 2011, the health department said no one had applied to be a licensed midwife.

A departmental employee had been working as the registrar of the midwifery council, along with other duties. The registrar's position has been suspended, but the employee has continued to work on their other responsibilities.

The employee is also working on a one-year special project on perinatal care, according to the department.

"Work is underway to develop the New Brunswick Perinatal Health Program, which will improve the collection of maternal and newborn health statistics and standardize maternal and newborn care," Flemming statement said.