Baby books and pregnancy pamphlets line the shelves at the Yukon’s new midwifery clinic where some expecting parents can now go for primary prenatal through postpartum care.
The clinic located at 9010 Quartz Rd. in Whitehorse is opening its doors to clients on July 8.
Elizabeth Morrison is one of the two practising midwives and the clinical manager. She told reporters at the clinic’s launch on July 6 that her team will double in size from two to four midwives “in the coming months.”
Morrison said they are trying to make the clinic and their approach to care as “non-authoritarian and collaborative as possible.”
“We don’t only provide primary maternity care, but we also support the physical, emotional and social health of our clients,” she said.
“We work to enable our clients choice of birthplace and, for the first time, midwives in the Yukon will be able to provide the option to birth at home or with our midwife at Whitehorse General Hospital.”
Morrison said midwives can order routine diagnostic tests such as ultrasounds, perform lab work and write prescriptions, as well as provide direct referrals to other health-care providers and specialists.
So far, the midwifery program has received 29 applications, she said, although some people will be screened out if they have pre-existing medical complications, histories of previous complicated pregnancies or need to see several specialists.
“We don’t want it to be bumpy for our people,” she said.
The first intake, which commenced in June, is only open to Whitehorse residents who are in their first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“For this initial group of intakes, people that are living in communities are not eligible for midwifery intakes, because we need to make sure that we do that training with our partners and physicians and community nursing so that we can take people into care and be on call for them 24/7,” Morrison said.
“In the coming weeks, we will complete that and then we will be able to bring [rural] people into care.”
Morrison explained that midwives specialize in low-risk or “normal” births. An average midwifery clinic in a rural jurisdiction would likely take on two to three births per month, according to Morrison.
“We’re going to be focusing on more of a lower volume, wraparound support services,” she said.
“We want to be able to have the time so that the midwives aren’t just frantically running from one thing to another.”
The Yukon’s Health and Social Services Minister Tracey-Anne McPhee said free, integrated and regulated midwifery services are important to patient safety and to support healthy pregnancies.
“This means that they are safe, and pregnant people and their families can expect to receive the same high standard of care that they receive and they would receive in other Canadian jurisdictions,” she said.
“Before today, only Yukoners who could afford to pay out of pocket could access midwifery care.”
Although there is “no prohibition” stopping private practice, McPhee said experts in the field made it clear that the publicly funded midwifery clinic approach would be the “safest,” “most integrated” and “most accessible” for Yukoners.
“Registered midwives who will work in the program are, of course, formally trained, licensed, insured, and have hospital privileges to ensure a safe and a seamless experience for all clients,” McPhee said.
McPhee noted there are different models of care across the country, such as a fee for service in Ontario. She indicated that making substantial changes to the health-care system by adding a new service such as the Yukon’s new midwifery program is a big deal.
“Health systems don’t change easily, and the integration of this here in the territory has been long awaited,” she said.
McPhee said the midwifery implementation committee was made up of people from the Yukon Hospital Corporation, the Council of Yukon First Nations and First Nations health programs at the Whitehorse General Hospital, as well as people with lived experience and community advocates.
McPhee said the scope of services will build as the midwifery team grows and renovations are being done on a larger, more permanent space set to open later in 2022.
Until now, the Yukon has had no active practising licensed midwives since regulations went into effect more than a year ago, alongside standards of practice and a code of ethics.
Yukon Party health critic Brad Cathers previously told the News the government should have waited until they were ready to launch before bringing in regulations more than a year ago.
The government “bungled this file badly” after spending four years promising to do it, Cathers said.
During the spring sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, NDP Leader Kate White 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.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org