2 Mar 2018

'Dear David': Midwives share messages out of despair

From Checkpoint, 5:09 pm on 2 March 2018

Midwives who are sick of being overworked, underpaid and exhausted have launched a social media campaign to get their messages across to Health Minister David Clark.

The ‘Dear David, Aotearoa needs more midwives’ Facebook page was launched on Tuesday and gained so much attention messages were coming in almost once a minute today.

Some of the messages were from women expressing support for their midwives, but most were from midwives themselves, who said they were being driven to leave.

The midwives said they were burning out, crying often. One said she wet herself because she couldn’t take a break, and another said she had to deliver a baby while miscarrying herself because she couldn’t afford to get a locum to cover her.

Charlie Ferris started the page out of sheer desperation. She told Checkpoint's John Campbell she planned to leave her job as a lead maternity carer (LMC) because she was on track to be bankrupt by the end of the year.

She worked 66 hours last week, drove 600km, filled her petrol tank three times and spent two nights away from her family. Her average income from the last two months was $308 a week, just over $7 an hour.

New Zealand College of Midwives has calculated rural midwives earn an average of $7.23 an hour, while urban midwives earn $12.40. They are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Midwives are paid $2314.50 for all pregnancy, labour birth and post-partum care. That includes all antenatal and postpartum visits, and their petrol and clinic costs.

Health Minister David Clark was not available for an interview, but said in a statement that his conversations with midwives had "reinforced for me what a demanding and incredibly important job they do".

"We are fortunate to have high-quality midwifes in New Zealand. However, there is a global midwife shortage and that creates workforce challenges for New Zealand. I know many midwives are feeling the pressure and want more support.

“It is important to note that workforce issues and shortages do not develop overnight and take time to fix. If the previous government had bothered to do proper workforce planning then we might have avoided the sort of pressures we're now seeing."

He said he had asked the Ministry of Health to look at what could be done to address the situation in both the short and long term.