Yukon to host midwifery symposium

The Yukon government has announced it will provide the Community Midwifery Association of Yukon with $15,000 to hold an educational symposium in late April.

The Yukon government has announced it will provide the Community Midwifery Association of Yukon with $15,000 to hold an educational symposium in late April.

The symposium is supposed to help a working group make recommendations to the government about how to regulate and fund midwifery in the territory.

Kathleen Cranfield, the association’s president, said funding midwifery services in the Yukon is all about giving women more choice.

“It would allow midwives to collaborate with other health-care providers and consult with physicians as needed,” she said. “It would allow women that choice of birthplace.”

Cranfield said experts from other jurisdictions will speak at the symposium, including Diane Rach, president of the College of Alberta Midwives, and a representative of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives. The attendees will then break out into smaller groups to discuss possible regulations and models of care.

She said the working group hopes to send its recommendations to the government sometime this summer.

Cranfield said the lack of regulation in the Yukon limits the services midwives can provide to expectant mothers.

Currently, midwives don’t have hospital privileges in the territory, which means they can’t deliver a baby if the mother chooses or needs to go to a hospital during labour.

“We’re not a recognized profession, so we have no responsibility,” Cranfield said. “So when I go in (to a hospital), I’m simply a friend.”

And because there’s no government funding for midwives, mothers have to pay out of pocket for their services.

In May 2015, Health Minister Mike Nixon committed to form this working group to study midwifery regulations across Canada.

Cranfield said the results of that review show that the Yukon and Prince Edward Island are the only jurisdictions in Canada without any regulations or funding. She said there used to be less public interest in midwifery in the Yukon than there is today. “Our jurisdiction is different,” she said. “The population is small, the birth rate is low.”

She pointed out that most Yukon communities outside Whitehorse have very small populations. In the Northwest Territories, she said, Fort Smith and Hay River have their own midwives. But they have populations two and three times the size of Dawson City, the Yukon’s second-largest community.

“So there’s enough births in the year to support a birthing initiative,” Cranfield explained.

She also noted that the Yukon is the only territory without any First Nations midwives.

But in the last year, Cranfield said, the interest in midwifery services has grown in the Yukon. She said 130 people signed up to the midwifery association during the maternity and baby fair that was part of the Rendezvous Festival last weekend.

That’s up from 16 members one year ago.

“I think people have a genuine interest,” she said. “I think it’s men and women alike, I think it’s grandmothers, I think it’s women of child-bearing age and past.

“There was just so much obvious support.”

Cranfield said she thinks it would be possible for the Yukon to regulate and fund midwifery within the next year and a half to two years.

“I don’t understand why it would have to be any longer than that,” she said. “We’re not reinventing the wheel here.”

Department of Health and Social Services spokesperson Pat Living said that timeframe is reasonable “if their recommendations are accepted and if the government agrees to proceed.”

But she said it’s hard to say what effect this year’s election might have on the process.

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