13 Aug 2021

Delays in police vetting force midwives to stop working or work without pay

7:37 am on 13 August 2021

Independent midwives are been told they cannot practice or are being forced to work for weeks on end without pay because of delays in getting police clearances.

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Photo: 123rf.com

They say they're having to take on part time jobs to make ends meet and desert expectant mothers when they need them most.

Midwives working in the community are required to get a Children's Worker Safety Check done every three years.

Also known as a CV Check - after the Perth-based company that helps process them - they usually take a few weeks, but delays of more than two months are now not uncommon.

This midwife working in the South Island thought she had plenty of time to get her check done.

She began the process in April, but her police clearance expired in July.

"I was initially given an six week extension, but I've now been told I can't get another extension and the Ministry of Health have basically said without a CV Check you can't work.

"So, I have had to hand over my case load to my colleagues and I'm now trying to find another source of income because I've just recently come off parental leave after having my second baby and we don't have any savings."

The midwife is a lead maternity carer operating independently in the community.

She contracts to pregnant women and bills the Ministry of Health for her services.

The extension meant she could work, but she cannot be paid until her police clearance is renewed.

She said she had now been told to start the process all over again.

"It's the police vetting ... there's been bad delays with the police vetting and mine for some reason just hasn't been completed and I've been told to reapply at the end of August, but it will take at least another month to get that sorted. So it won't be until the beginning of October if I am lucky that I can go back to work."

Another midwife working in the lower North Island said she applied for a new clearance in early March.

She then learned the hard way it had expired.

"The first I knew of it was in the beginning of June when I started noticing that I wasn't getting paid and some claims were being declined. And when I further looked into why this was I found that my CV Check has expired."

She had missed an email warning her one form of verified ID was missing from her paperwork.

That meant her police check had not even been started.

She too was granted an extension.

"It took just over seven weeks for it to be completed and during this time I had no income whatsoever and I still had to be on call 24/7 and provide care to clients that were under my care. I was legally obligated to do that and provide them with 24 hour cover all the time I wasn't being paid."

She was out of pocket by about $10,000 over the two months her clearance was expired which was now being backpaid.

NZ College of Midwives midwifery advisor Claire MacDonald said it was dealing with up to 10 similar complaints a week.

"This was a very very predicable hump in demand. The Ministry of Health was aware that it was coming and the police were aware that it was coming.

"And as far as we can see capacity has not been increased to deal with that increased demand, so what's happened is that the police vetting is taking longer than it was up until now."

MacDonald said midwives were being put in an unenviable position.

"So any claims they put in for work already completed after the time their previous CV Check expired are being rejected and not being paid, so that means midwives are doing work that they are not being paid for doing.

"And that's putting them in a very difficult position because they have a commitment to the women they have in their caseload, they are on call for those women and those women are still going to have babies."

She said that was not good enough.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said it was aware of significant delays in the police vetting process.

It said there was no delay in the processing of CV Check applications if the documentation was complete and police vetting was approved.

The ministry was encouraging independent midwives to start the process of renewing their safety check well before it expired.

In a statement, police said its Vetting Service processed approximately 600,000 requests per year for about 13,000 approved agencies.

Police said vetting times fluctuated during the year and the service but it usually aimed to process them inside 20 working days.

But it was not managing that at the moment.

"Processing time-frames for some requests are currently outside the 20 working day service level, primarily due to high demand, which is typical for this time of year."

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