The NWT government says it needs to find an extra $2 million to complete improvements to its midwifery programs, but that money doesn’t yet exist in the territory’s budget.
Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos on Tuesday told the legislature all NWT residents deserve full and equal access to midwifery programs and the “culturally relevant birthing option” they offer.
“Midwifery services have been a long time coming for most communities in the NWT. There is a growing interest among people all across the NWT,” Martselos said.
“Not everyone wants their newborn delivered in a hospital many kilometres outside of their home communities.”
Julie Green, the health minister, said she agreed with Martselos but making many of the required improvements remains beyond the territory’s means.
Green said the territory envisages second and third phases of its midwifery programs but can’t move forward without $2 million in funding.
“We recognize that increased access to midwifery services will not only enhance perinatal services for NWT residents and improve outcomes for mothers and babies, but also strengthen the culturally sensitive primary care in our health system,” the minister said.
“That money does not exist in our budget at this time.”
Referencing the 2017 Midwifery Stakeholder Engagement – a document that set out 10 recommended actions for the territory – Martselos asked Green how many of those recommendations had been followed.
The recommendations include actions like strengthening the existing Hay River and Fort Smith midwifery services, expanding services to Yellowknife, the Beaufort Delta, and Behchokǫ̀, developing formalized maternity care training and support for community health nurses, and making a midwife recruitment and retention plan.
Green said five of the 10 recommended actions had been taken, though which five had been completed was not specified.
The minister said she would have an update on all 10 recommendations by June.
She added her department is planning a midwifery program expansion in Hay River and consulting with communities in Fort Resolution and the Dehcho about similar work, while preliminary discussions are taking place about an expansion to Behchokǫ̀.
Green said the territory hired a midwifery manager last year to examine how services can be expanded. A second person is set to be hired this year to help that work.