The Yukon government sign in front of the main administraton building on Second Avenue. Roughly 75 per cent or respondents are interested in having midwifery services accessible in their respective community. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

Yukoners are mostly onboard with midwifery, according to feedback

How it will work outside Whitehorse is unclear

While the majority of Yukoners agree with the territorial government’s approach to bringing midwifery into the health care fold, there are still loose ends.

They mostly centre on travelling to Whitehorse from outlying communities in order to access these services. Doing so, according to a document gauging feedback, could be costly and cleave families apart during a time of need. Some participants suggested a review of medical travel supports, presumably to lighten the financial burden.

Kathleen Cranfield, president of the Community Midwifery Association Yukon, said there needs to be more education about what midwives actually do, “the standards to which she, or he, works.”

She noted that this will likely occur once these services are implemented.

Asked whether there potential solutions to deal with concerns like these, Dallas Smith, a senior advisor with the Department of Health and Social Services, said, “I don’t know if we have concrete ideas yet, but, from perspective, moving forward with this initiative … continuous feedback is going to be really important. …”

A department spokesperson said there are no updates to the medical travel supports issue, but that it’s reviewing the program’s policies and procedures.

The “What We Heard” document is the culmination of the Yukon government’s pitch of its plan for integrating, regulating and funding midwifery into the territorial health care system, starting in Whitehorse, where pre and post-natal services, along with birthing, could be offered.

Other communities like Dawson City and Watson Lake will be eyed as locales in which regulated midwifery could be offered eventually, too.

The report outlining input from the public and stakeholders started last fall. There were 618 responses, it says. In addition to surveys, focus groups were also hosted late last year in the three aforementioned jurisdictions.

Roughly 83 per cent of respondents agree with the Yukon government’s plan, according to the report; about 75 per cent are interested in having midwifery services accessible in their respective community.

“Overwhelmingly, both survey respondents and focus group participants wanted women to have the choice of whether to give birth in a hospital or at home,” it says, noting that focus groups participants had “extensive conversations” about how far away expectant mothers should be from the Whitehorse General Hospital.

Recommendations collected during the input period include defining the roles of midwives in order to prevent crossing lines with physicians and nurses. Midwives should be “autonomous” is another suggestion.

“Some participants shared concerns that allowing anything less than a full scope of midwifery practice might result in challenges recruiting midwives, and reduce potential benefits to the healthcare system,” the report says.

It seems to get complicated outside Whitehorse, however. Residents in places like Dawson City don’t have access to the same medical facilities or expertise. Bringing infrastructure up-to-speed in Dawson and Watson Lake could prevent travel to Whitehorse, or “birthing at a distance,” some participants suggested, because midwives would have support in case of an emergency.

Contrary to this thinking, though, is the “enormous amount” of funding and labour required to upgrade emergency facilities in Dawson and Watson Lake, and nurses could be pulled from other responsibilities, according to the report.

“This included access to ultrasound, a blood bank and transfusion capacity, operating rooms, trained medical staff (including a surgeon, anesthesiologist and maternity nurses), and liability coverage,” it says. “Many targeted stakeholder participants and some public participants told us there are not enough births to warrant this increased capacity or to allow healthcare providers to easily maintain their competency, skills and comfort in more urgent birthing scenarios.”

Some of these concerns, Cranfield said, show a lack of understanding.

“I do think that the education needs to be a little bit more accurate in terms of what is safe and where the evidence has proven midwifery to be safe instead of suggesting that just because it’s here that it may not be,” she said.

There is “strong support” for pre and post-natal care to be offered in communities, the report says (about 73 per cent).

As for midwife-led birthing, all focus group participants and 80 per cent of survey respondents want them to be restricted to Whitehorse initially.

“There was no consensus,” the report says, “although the public focus group participants and midwives tended to favour midwife-led birthing in a larger geographic area than physicians and nurses.”

Most respondents — roughly 87 per cent — were female; about 84 per cent were non-Indigenous; and roughly 53 per cent of respondents were between the ages of 30 and 39.

Smith said a midwifery program will likely be implemented later this year.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Turtle and rhino fossils fill in ‘massive’ Yukon history gap

Fossils discovered in 1973 are turning heads

In with the old for Dawson City

Town council considers new heritage bylaw

Housing First facility is open, still more work to do, housing advocate says

Residents will be moved in by the end of the month

Whitehorse releases proposed $33M capital budget for 2020

It includes money for upgrading city infrastructure along with focusing on reducing energy use

Whitehorse animal shelter in dire straits, humane society says

Humane Society Yukon is holding a public meeting Nov. 26 to determine shelter and society’s future

Driving with Jens: Yielding is at the heart of defensive driving

If you’re like most people, you probably think about whether you have right-of-way, not yielding

Today’s mailbox: Remembrance Day, highway work

Letters to the editor published Nov. 13

F.H. Collins Warriors beat Vanier Crusaders in Super Volley boys volleyball final

“As long as we can control their big plays to a minimum, we’ll be successful”

Yukonomist: The squirrel, the husky and the rope

The squirrel is political popularity.

Government workers return to Range Road building

The building had been evacuated in October.

City news, briefly

The Food for Fines campaign and transit passes for a refugee family came up at City Hall this week

Rams, Warriors win Super Volley semifinals

The girls final will be Vanier and Porter Creek while the boys final will be F.H. Collins and Vanier

Most Read