About 100 people in Bridgewater rallied in front of Lunenburg West MLA Mark Furey's constituency office Monday afternoon, protesting the loss of the South Shore's midwifery program.
The group chanted, "Midwives matter" and "Call the midwife? Wish I could!"
The South Shore Community Midwives program was suspended last week after its last remaining midwife informed the Nova Scotia Health Authority she could no longer continue the workload alone, said Kelly Chisholm, president of the Association of Nova Scotia Midwives.
More midwifery services needed
The province provides funding for two midwives in that area.
Danielle Griffin, who relied on a midwife during her first pregnancy, said that number should be increased to four.
"That's exactly what we want," she said, adding that many women at the rally don't even have access to family doctors. Midwives alleviate pressure on Nova Scotia's strained medical system, she said.
"Why they're not funding it is beyond my comprehension," Griffin said.
The province already has the regulatory bodies and infrastructure, as well as the demand, for midwife services, she said.
"Clearly, there are a lot of angry mothers, a lot of angry families," said doula Whitney Cruikshank, who carried her daughter in her arms at the rally.
Others held up signs reading, "We're Having a Midwife Crisis," "We Deserve the Breast Support" and "Start Life With a Midwife."
Furey to take concerns to health minister
Desiree Gordon is one of the mothers who lost her midwifery care.
Now 21 weeks pregnant, she said a midwife provided consistent care during her previous pregnancy and childbirth.
"Seeing the same person was hugely different than seeing six doctors and not knowing who was going to be at the birth," she said.
After about an hour, Furey walked out of his office and told the crowd he will bring their concerns to Health Minister Randy Delorey during a meeting Wednesday.
He also said the health minister is willing to meet with the head of the midwifery program.
9 midwife positions for province
There are nine midwifery positions in the province spread across three centres — South Shore, Halifax and Antigonish.
The IWK Community Midwives program is stable with five midwives, Chisholm said, but that "does not even scratch the surface" of demand for midwifery service across the province.
The program in Antigonish has funding for two midwives, but one is expected to soon be on leave.
In 2011, an external review for the Department of Health and Wellness recommended there be 20 midwives in the province by 2017.