Midwives march: 'I've never seen such a level of hopelessness'

From Checkpoint, 5:37 pm on 3 May 2018

Thousands of midwives have marched across the country today to demand better pay and working conditions. 

Ten events were held from Auckland down to Wanaka.

Hundreds of those midwives presented a 13,000 signature petition and hundreds of letters to the Health Minister David Clark on the steps of Parliament.

Charlie Ferris organised a campaign where midwives wrote to health minister David Clark.

The working conditions and pay were tough, she said.

"The average hourly wage at the moment for a rural midwife like myself is $7.23 an hour after business expenses and for a midwife in the city like Wellington it's around $12.40.

"The workload is easily forty hours a week, I've done up to 80 hours a week in the last year and it happens way more than it should," she said. 

Widwives rally in Wellington.

Photo: RNZ / John Lake

Sarah Glass said she was on call 24 hours a day and her work always came first. 

"When you're a midwife in the community your first priority is your clients, your second priority is your children, third might be your partner and your family and somewhere down the bottom of the heap you come just below the cat," she laughed.

Her dedication to the job was apparent when she once had to give an emergency tracheotomy to her choking husband.

"The first call we made was to the ambulance, the second phone call we made was trying to find someone to cover all my clients on a Friday night," she said.

"We don't have any funding for someone to come and relieve us - it's inhumane."

New Zealand College of Midwives chief executive Karen Guilliland said the conditions were taking a toll. 

"I've been around midwifery for around 40 years and I've never seen such a level of hopelessness," she said. 

When the petition and letters were delivered to Mr Clark he promised the government would support midwives. 

"This is a government that is determined to listen, determined to be passionate and a government that cares about children," he told the crowd.

However, when asked if midwives would get a fair pay for their work in this year's budget he would not confirm any details.