Midwifery has been 'a long time coming' say P.E.I. advocacy groups

Advocates who have been lobbying for access to midwives on P.E.I. say they're pleased to hear the province is moving ahead with plans to implement regulated midwifery services on the Island. 

'It's a vital service that so many families are going to benefit from'

Megan Burnside says her 10-month-old daughter just missed out on being born on P.E.I. with the assistance of a midwife. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Advocates who have been lobbying for access to midwives on P.E.I. say they're pleased the government is moving forward with its plans to implement regulated midwifery services on the Island. 

Health Minister James Aylward said Monday the province plans to roll out the publicly-funded service early next year. 

He said one of the first steps will be to hire a midwifery co-ordinator to help integrate the program into the heath-care system.

"It's hard to believe really," said Joyce England, president of the P.E.I.Midwives Association.

She has been trying to get the profession recognized on P.E.I. for more than 20 years. She's from the Island but spent decades working in northern Canada as a nurse and midwife.

'We want to do it our way'

England said over the years she has had to turn down people who wanted her services on the Island.

Joyce England, president of the P.E.I. Midwives Association, says she is pleased the government is committing to regulating and funding midwifery. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"It is really difficult to say 'Sorry we can't, we can't provide that care for you,'" England said. "We had lots of people come to us and say, 'We want to have our baby at home. We want a midwife and we want to do it our way.'"

But with no regulation it would have been dangerous for both families and midwives, she said.

The government's announcement said to start, P.E.I.'s regulated midwifery services will focus on pre-natal and post-natal care. The service is then expected to expand to in-hospital and home births.

'A long time coming'

Midwives provide important care before and after a baby is born, according to Megan Burnside with B.O.R.N., P.E.I.'s midwife advocacy group.

Burnside says she hopes for transparency as the province establishes midwifery services across the Island so people have a chance to give input on how program will work. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"We are so excited that finally we are going to have publicly-funded registered midwives on P.E.I. It's been a long time coming," Burnside said.

She said families on P.E.I. have been asking for the services for decades and introducing midwives here will give Island women more options and control of their care.

"It's a vital service that so many families are going to benefit from," Burnside said.

She said she hopes midwifery services won't be limited and that government will move quickly to allow home births.

"We have to recognize that they do have a lot of education and they do know what they're doing," Burnside said of midwives.

Midwifery is like many health-care fields, she said — it will be competitive, and she hopes P.E.I. will be able to recruit the midwives it needs.

Aylward said the rollout of publicly funded midwifery services in will begin in early 2020.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Laura Meader


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