Maternity consumer advocates express both pleasure and disappointment with the Alberta government’s new budget | April 15, 2016

Maternity consumer advocates express both pleasure and disappointment with the Alberta government’s new budget, which will allot for an increase to midwifery funding to the tune of $11 Million over the next 3 years. This change will allow 400 more Alberta women to access midwifery care in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Though this boost in funding is a step in the right direction, midwives in this province will still not be working to capacity. It is discouraging to have our industry leading midwives being under utilized. Consumers are hopeful that this decision will alleviate some stress from the central waiting list for midwifery care, while encouraging key stakeholders to continue working together to achieve a new sustainable funding model.

 Albertans have been campaigning for increased access to midwifery care for years, with a heightened focus this spring.

 The Association for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (ASAC) organized a “pool party” rally at the Alberta Legislature March 9th to celebrate Alberta’s midwives and urge the government to increase access. Consumers across the province have been contacting their MLAs to raise concerns about inadequate access to midwifery care. Consumers in Calgary organized a rally on March 31st.

 Allocations to midwifery practices of the original number of “courses of care” (CoC) to be funded by Alberta Health Services (AHS) for the 2016-2017 fiscal year took place on March 18th, upsetting midwives and consumers alike. Despite rising demand among Alberta women, many midwives remained with a number of CoCs that put them again in a part-time work situation; and some  midwifery practices (in St. Albert, Cochrane and Calgary) anticipated closing their doors altogether because of insufficient courses of care being allocated to them. A database administered by the Alberta Association of Midwives (AAM) has 1,900 women listed who desire midwifery care but currently do not have access to a midwife. Some pregnant women under the care of a midwife were told they would no longer have that care.

 Health Minister Sarah Hoffman made a statement on March 21st, indicating that “…for expectant moms out there who wish to access those (midwifery) options, I am looking ahead to budget day, April 14.” Representatives from AHS, AAM, The College of Midwives, Alberta Health (including a visit from Minister Hoffman), Mount Royal University’s midwifery program, as well as consumer representation met for a “summit” on April 7th and 8th to begin a process of reviewing the existing funding framework for midwifery in Alberta, and working toward an amended, sustainable framework.

 Across the province, women desiring and advocating for midwifery care had been anxiously awaiting budget day. The sentiment on social media has been a mixture of disappointment in an announcement that was not as bold as consumers had been promised, and hope for the future. (“Progress. I still look forward to the day when there is no wait list and all moms have equal access and choice in their caregiver.” – quoted from ASAC’s Facebook page.)

 The Association for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (ASAC) has been working on a cost analysis report, comparing the costs of maternity care provided by different providers (i.e., physicians and midwives). ASAC president Dana Weatherhead and VP Finance Cynthia Hnatko met with Health Minister Sarah Hoffman in February, and with Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne in April, to present their preliminary results, showing the cost savings that midwifery care brings to the health care budget. ASAC looks forward to finalizing its cost analysis report this month, to further assist the government in making decisions that benefit women and families while also saving taxpayer money.

 The Association for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (ASAC) was formed in Edmonton in 1979. For decades now, women in this province have been asking for choice in maternity care.

 “What is Midwifery?” video created by ASAC:

“Transformation to Parenthood” TV series, sponsored by ASAC:

Contact: ASAC President Dana Weatherhead, 780-887-0725,

ASAC VP External Jennifer Wilson, 780-278-1874,