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WENDY ELLIOTT: Mail those purple postcards in aid of more midwifery

Dawn Hare and Emily Kathan travelled to Halifax several years ago to rally for improved midwifery services in the province- and a return of midwives to the Annapolis Valley.
Dawn Hare and Emily Kathan travelled to Halifax several years ago to rally for improved midwifery services in the province- and a return of midwives to the Annapolis Valley.

You do this community reporting thing in one place long enough and issues start to repeat and repeat. Poverty, farmland preservation, mental health and hospice care, but also midwifery chime in every so often.

Wendy Elliott Column

Six years ago we made a gain on the midwifery front in three places in the province. Midwives operate out of Antigonish, the South Shore and Halifax. In two of those places, homebirths are allowed.
The Midwifery Coalition of Nova Scotia noted lately that not much has changed in terms of access since then. The group should know; they’ve been around for over 30 years.
This month the coalition has a campaign going asking people to mail purple postcards to the provincial government to lobby for province-wide access.
According to the coalition, "Kings and Annapolis counties saw 676 births between them last year. This is more than enough to support midwifery in the Annapolis Valley, especially when Hants is factored in."
Exactly two years ago when then health minister Leo Glavine was asked about using midwifery expertise to make up for a lack of obstetrician/gynecologists in Kentville, he said the collaborative team on the South Shore had proved to be one of the best models. Glavine added that the new health authority was looking at widening the perimeters for midwives across the province.
In fact, Glavine went on to state he believed the collaborative model was “begging to be implemented here in the Valley. It will take time and expertise, but I would like to see a robust provincial plan. I am hoping it won’t be too long before here is the next place we introduce midwives.”
Back in 2015, Nova Scotia was losing obstetricians and gynecologists. I remember Dr. Farrell Nette telling me that while Kentville is the birthing centre for the western region, specialists were leaving and fewer family physicians were willing to deliver the two or three babies born every day in the region. The province had stopped funding malpractice insurance from the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA).
At the time, Kings County doula Dawn Hare called for
midwives to be able to deliver low risk babies and let the specialists take on the higher risk births, which makes sense.
In 2013, the Midwifery Coalition called for the expansion of midwifery services during the fall election campaign. Tory health critic Chris d’Entremont said the McNeil government’s dismissive attitude towards women’s health was putting patient safety in jeopardy.
This time around the group waited till after the vote. Now additional complaints have surfaced about the manner in which women seeking abortion services are treated by our health care system.
In 2011, Jan Catano of the Midwifery Coalition said,
“Midwifery just isn’t something nice; it’s something necessary. And it offers women’s health services in rural areas, because midwives are willing to work there.”
Midwifery costs the health care system less, too.
Veteran Wolfville midwife Louise MacDonald lobbied so hard for government-funded midwifery for about 30 years. She was aware that the return of midwifery in Atlantic Canada had moved slowly due to high health care costs in general. Meanwhile there was an erosion of awareness that most births can happen safely, without the need for medical intervention.
MacDonald would try to tell those in authority that midwives can educate women about normal births. They are the specialists in normal births.
One of my favourite novelists, Ami McKay, wrote her first book, The Birth House, after living in the home of a Scott’s Bay midwife. Louise MacDonald helped in the fruitful process of McKay’s son’s homebirth. So McKay is well aware of the discouragement felt by midwives in this province, but she has held out an ideal for home deliveries in her historical fiction. We need to hold out some more for that ideal in the Valley — and mail those postcards.

This file photo shows an earlier demonstration is favour of more midwives.


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