Alberta MLA candidates respond to maternity care consumer survey | May 2, 2015
The MaternityCare Consumers of Alberta Network (MCAN) sent a survey last week to 379 MLA candidates regarding our maternity care system and midwifery care. With an impending election, most responses contained some indication of support for midwifery, with some asking for more information. Others, like the Green Party’s Jennifer Roach in Drayton Valley-Devon, wrote that access to maternity care and midwives in rural areas is a significant challenge.
Both the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties sent responses on behalf of their candidates. The PC response highlighted actions taken by the government in the past few years to support midwifery. The PCs pledged to expand midwifery services, but only “as the province’s finances permits,” ignoring the fact that changing the current funding model for midwifery and expanding access to midwives could save $7 million per year in Alberta’s health care budget. The PCs’ pledge reflects the current climate in which the government is “maintaining stable funding for existing midwifery services” but is neither providing more funding, nor shifting the funding model, despite long-standing unmet demand from pregnant Alberta women.
Respondents from all parties expressed a willingness to re-examine the maternity care funding model. Currently midwives are paid by Alberta Health Services, while physicians providing maternity care are paid by Alberta Health, creating two different funding streams. The AHS funding to midwives is capped; the funding to physicians by Alberta Health is not.
Many candidates proposed increasing midwifery training to increase access to midwifery care. Some seemed unaware that Alberta already has a program at Mount Royal University (MRU) in Calgary. The program was launched in 2011, under the current government’s tenure. The PC response mentioned MRU, but omitted the fact that many of the first midwives graduating this spring are leaving Alberta in the absence of jobs due to the funding cap. The Liberal candidate for Edmonton-Goldbar, Ronald Brochu, wrote: “Money sunk into funding this newer educational program (MRU) is going to waste.”
Responses from NDP candidates were sometimes personalized, but all included key phrases like “The Alberta government is not supporting midwifery to the same degree as other provinces.”
One non-PC candidate, Calgary-Bow’s Liberal Matthew Gaiser, expressed dismissive sentiments towards midwifery care, stating “there are more pressing challenges to the health care system” and “a shortage of obstetricians is more critical than a shortage of midwives.” Gaiser failed to recognize that lower-cost midwives attending low-risk women free up finances and obstetricians to be available for higher-risk pregnancies. The blanket PC response included the words “popular” and “trend” to describe women’s interest in midwifery care. 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 improved access to choice in their maternity care.
Full candidates’ survey responses: http://tinyurl.com/MCAN-ASAC-survey
Contact: MCAN President Nicole Hill, 780-994-3209, firstname.lastname@example.org
MCAN Action plan: www.maternitycarealberta.com/election-campaign.php
Contact: ASAC VP External Dana Weatherhead, 780-887-0725, email@example.com
ASAC (Association for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth): www.asac.ab.ca