12 Jun 2012

Midwife numbers boosted

3:19 pm on 12 June 2012

A midwife shortage has been averted with the profession boasting the highest ever number of staff.

More than 3000 midwives are practising at present, about 200 more than the all-time low in 2005.

Since 2008, when 15 of the country's 21 District Health Boards said they were struggling with major midwife shortages, the profession has undergone a major overhaul with the aim of increasing graduate numbers and retaining current staff.

The College of Midwives says there are always likely to be slight shortages in Manukau and Wellington because of the high number of births in those regions but there are enough midwives at the moment to safely provide services to the whole country.

Midwifery adviser Norma Campbell says the increase in midwives is due to stricter qualifications, a mentoring programme for graduates and better staff retention.

Figures from the Midwifery Council show that the number of new graduates has risen rapidly from 103 in 2005 to 150 last year.

Council chair Judith McAra-Couper says midwife numbers in rural areas are now steady for the first time in years helped by students now being able to attend classes in areas such as West Coast, Nelson-Marlborough and Taranaki.

Ms Judith McAra-Couper says salaries for graduates have also increased, the average income now being close to $60,000 a year.