PEI

P.E.I. targets early 2020 for midwifery, but Islanders may have to pay out of pocket

After years of advocacy work on P.E.I., Island women could have access to midwifery services in less than a year — but it's not clear yet exactly how the services would be rolled out. 

Health Minister James Aylward says his department is considering all options, including a user-pay system

P.E.I.'s health minister said he hopes to see midwifery services offered on the Island by January 2020. (Andrew Shurtleff/AP)

After years of advocacy work on P.E.I., Island women could have access to midwifery services in less than a year — but it's not yet clear exactly how the services will be rolled out. 

Minister of Health and Wellness James Aylward said he hopes to see midwifery introduced to the province's health-care system by January 2020, "at the very latest."

Aylward provided the update in question period Friday, in response to questions from Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker. 

Midwifery services were a campaign promise for the Greens, and Bevan-Baker said it was "thrilling" to hear the update.

However, he also raised concerns about what the integration of the services will look like — and if there will be a cost to Islanders who wish to access them.

Possible out-of-pocket fees

Aylward said there are still many details to be worked out before services roll out next year. He said his department is currently doing consultations with groups including the College of Physicians and Surgeons of P.E.I. and the Medical Society of P.E.I. 

Everything's on the table.— James Aylward

Among the considerations, Aylward said, is whether the services would be "user-pay" — something Bevan-Baker said he was "a little horrified" to hear. 

"We have a public health service and midwifery is absolutely, in all other jurisdictions, a part of the public health service," Bevan-Baker said.

"So even the suggestion that this would become a user-pay system where … families out-of-pocket, would have to pay for this, is quite an extraordinary thing."

Minister of Health and Wellness James Aylward said a user-pay model for midwifery is just one option being explored. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

Aylward said the user-pay option is just one consideration, and "everything's on the table."

"Within Health PEI right now, there's fee for service, there's salaried physicians, there's segments of the health-care system that are user-pay. So those are all really fine details that need to be worked out as of yet," Aylward said. 

'Soft launch' of services

If the province meets the January 2020 timeline, the first three months of midwifery service will fall within the current fiscal year. This year's budget — which has not yet passed — includes $150,000 for the introduction of midwifery services. 

Bevan-Baker said the estimates he's heard from advocacy groups have been much higher. 

Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker says he is concerned about the amount of funding for midwifery, as well as the possibility the services may be an out-of-pocket expense for Islanders. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

"Assuming that we do ramp up to full, Island-wide midwifery services for all women who wish to use them, the estimated cost of that is around a million dollars," Bevan-Baker said.

Aylward said he does not know yet how much funding would go toward midwifery in future years. He also said he anticipates what he calls a "soft launch" of services early next year, with more midwives to be added over time, once the province has a better idea of the demand. 

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About the Author

Sarah MacMillan is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at sarah.macmillan@cbc.ca

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