Expectant parents who want a licensed midwife will have to leave the territory or find another option, for now.
The Yukon has no active practising licensed midwives since regulations went into effect a year ago, alongside standards of practice and a code of ethics.
In a Facebook post, the Yukon Association for Birth Choices said a group attended the Yukon Legislature on April 14 to “bear witness” on the one year anniversary of the regulations.
A photo shared with the post shows a group of five people, with two babies, perched outside the government administration building. A couple of people can be seen holding up a cardboard sign that reads, “We had our baby at home without a midwife” and another person is wearing a shirt with the words “I wanted a midwife.”
With “families having unattended births at home because they feel they have no other choices” and posted salaries “far below” the pay rate offered in neighbouring jurisdictions, the Yukon NDP has taken on the issue.
“It was clear from the start that it would take at least one year for Yukon midwives to fulfill the new requirements. Yet, the government put new regulations in place with no real interim solution,” NDP Leader Kate White said in a press release issued April 14.
“This government is failing expectant parents.”
White raised the issue during question period on April 14, asking why it has been a year since midwives were able to practise in the territory.
White also moved a motion urging the Yukon government to work with the Yukon Hospital Corporation to grant midwives hospital privileges in the Dawson City Community Hospital and the Watson Lake Community Hospital. Another motion moved by White calls on the government to make midwifery support available in communities outside of Whitehorse.
In a January 2021 press release, the Department of Health and Social Services expected funded and regulated midwifery services to launch in fall 2021. The regulatory framework, which went into effect April 15, 2021, was considered a “key step” in regulating, funding and integrating midwifery services into the healthcare system, according to the release.
The release states Yukon’s Midwifery Regulation, under the Health Professions Act, will begin with establishing full midwifery services in Whitehorse.
When the midwifery program opens, Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee told reporters April 14 following question period, the model of care will allow midwives to provide prenatal and postnatal care to clients and their babies. It will be a clinic-based system in which midwives will have hospital privileges.
“We’re certainly looking forward to it being completed so that there are free regulated and accessible services of midwives here in the territory,” she said.
The department said in an email the two registered midwives will be the primary care provider for up to 20 births in total over the course of a year.
McPhee said a “myriad of things every step of the way” has stalled the process of launching the program.
McPhee said although the first midwife was hired in December 2021, a second one must be brought on before licensed work can ensue under the program.
“There definitely needs to be two midwives in order to support one another and to provide the services properly, and that’s certainly something that came from the experts in the field,” she said.
“I can indicate that the process of hiring midwives took longer than we had hoped.”
McPhee said the department has been working with the Public Service Commission to get a $12,000 increase approved on the base salary by reclassifying the position in attempt to lure workers.
However, McPhee said, that move has been challenged by the Yukon Employees’ Union.
“If midwives can work elsewhere and be paid more, have similar benefits, those kinds of things, then that might have impacted our recruitment, for sure,” McPhee said.
“We didn’t expect to have an issue with the classification for employment, we didn’t expect to have an issue with the increase that was approved, so little things each take a few weeks longer than they’re necessary.”
In a statement issued April 20, president Steve Geick of the Yukon Employees’ Union accuses the minister of “choosing to blame everyone but her own department” for the slow rollout of the midwidery program.
In the statement, Geick said the government offered a wage package that was “well below par,” calling the proposed increase an “inadequate response.”
“Choosing to bargain in the media is not our usual strategy, but as the minister has used the collective bargaining process to shield the government’s mismanagement, we must respond,” reads the statement.
The union is taking issue with what it calls sub-par wages and an “unwillingness to consider” a reclassification of the base wage to reflect market values, a still-too-low market adjustment in the pensionable base wage, licensing requirements which no experienced service provider can meet, candidates’ inabilities to secure the privileges required for employment prior to April 1 and the employer’s refusal to consider the union’s hours-of-work proposal for midwives that reflects the demands of the job.
McPhee hopes the program can start delivering “very soon.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org