Manitoba

Midwifery students 'left high and dry' after hearing courses likely won't continue this fall

Midwifery students at the University College of the North rallied outside the Manitoba Legislative Building today after learning their courses likely won't be offered this fall.

'We've made financial sacrifices. We've sacrificed for our families,' says UCN student

Midwifery students 'left high and dry' after hearing courses likely won't continue this fall

5 years ago
2:06
Midwifery students at the University College of the North rallied outside the Manitoba Legislative Building today after learning their courses likely won't be offered this fall. 2:06

Midwifery students at the University College of the North are shocked to learn that courses likely won't be offered this fall.

The 14 Bachelor of Midwifery students say they learned from university staff on Monday that some funding for the provincial program has been cut and courses will not continue in the upcoming school year as a result.

Some of the students rallied outside the Manitoba Legislative Building on Tuesday to demand answers from the provincial government.

"We took out student loans for tuition. We've made financial sacrifices. We've sacrificed for our families," said Jill Larner, who has finished the first year of the four-year program.

"We've rearranged all of our professional lives. We've quit jobs and now we're left high and dry with nothing to show for it after a year."

The webpage for the University College of the North's midwifery program states that it's "not accepting applications for the 2016/17 academic year." (CBC)

Mismanaged, not cut: minister

Education Minister Ian Wishart says funding for the program has not been cut.

The real issue, he said, is that the College of Midwives of Manitoba is not providing accreditation for UCN's midwifery program due to concerns about some training elements, such as practical work for students in hospitals.

Manitoba Education Minister Ian Wishart says the College of Midwives of Manitoba is not providing accreditation for UCN's midwifery program due to concerns about some training elements, such as practical work for students in hospitals. (CBC)
"What came through to us was that the in-hospital situations, we're not up to a standard that they were happy with," he told reporters.

"So it would be the interning or the practicums were not of adequate quality — [that] was the reference that we had in the letter, but there may certainly be other things beyond that."

The minister accused the previous NDP government of mismanaging the midwifery program.

"The previous government left us with a program that was not accreditable and not sustainable and would not have met the needs of Manitobans," he said.

College says program was approved

College of Midwives registrar Janice Erickson told CBC News that the college did approve the latest midwifery program that was presented to them. 

Erickson said officials from the college have been reaching out to the provincial government, with no response for days.

The college says it was waiting to hear about additional funding, but it had not been granted.

The University College of the North launched the multi-million dollar midwifery program in 2006 with a mandate to address a shortage of midwives, especially in remote northern communities.

The northern version of the provincial program has been plagued with difficulties for several years, including low enrolment rates at UCN. There weren't enough practising midwives available to train practicum students.

In 2014, the NDP government announced the launch of the current bachelor of midwifery program, in partnership with UCN and the University of Manitoba. That program launched in the fall of 2015.

Fourteen Bachelor of Midwifery students say they learned from UCN staff on Monday that some funding for the provincial program has been cut and courses will not continue in the upcoming school year as a result. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

'A complete shock'

Earlier this month, Wishart said the province is working with the University of Manitoba and the University College of the North to address students' concerns about the future of the midwifery program.

On Tuesday, he said the affected midwifery students have been offered an opportunity to take one year of nursing instead. However, students who protested outside the legislature told CBC News they won't take that option.

"Working with the University of Manitoba, we did work to try and find some options for them. That has not turned out to be something that they wish to engage in, by the sound of it, though we haven't spoken directly to the students in the last little bit, and we will be speaking directly to the students," the minister said.

"But we did provide them with that option. That remains their choice as to whether they pursue that option or whether they want something specific," he added.

Larner said she and her classmates want to study midwifery, and that's what they had been promised in the past.

"At no time were we informed that the possibility that funding could be diverted from the midwifery program or our education and we had pre- and post-election promises that we were sure that our program would continue," she said.

"So this has come as a complete shock to us."

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