Families rally for midwife privileges at Nanaimo hospital

NANAIMO – Families rallied for increased access to midwives and more hospital privileges at NRGH, Friday.

Aspiring midwife Jessa Miyashiro might not be able to deliver in the Harbour City, despite seeing the need for care.

It all boils down to hospital privileges, which midwives need to care for expectant mothers but which Miyashiro and Nanaimo midwife Sandy Pullin claim are not being given.

“It’s hard to talk with people who want a midwife so badly and they’re calling when they are six- or eight-weeks pregnant and not getting in,” said Miyashiro, a Nanaimo resident and University of B.C. midwifery student. And while she isn’t too worried about her career with the need for midwives across the province, she said it seems crazy she couldn’t get a job here where there’s such demand.

“That’s really kind of the bottleneck, is that if the hospital isn’t allowing new privileges nobody can post a job to say there’s space for more midwives here.”

Miyashiro joined families at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital on Friday rallying to bring attention to the issue of access to midwifery care and the need for more hospital privileges.

Demand for midwives is high, according to Miyashiro and Tanya Tougas, event organizer, who say that if women don’t call within weeks of finding out they’re pregnant, they are not able to get a midwife.

Every month midwifery practices are fully booked and there’s always wait lists, said Tougas.

“NRGH decides who they give privileges to, doctors and midwives. They consider a lot of things … but as families living in this area we know for certain there is a demand for midwives and they haven’t really been granting new midwives privileges,” she said.

Pullin, a midwife for 37 years, wasn’t aware of the rally but said the hospital needs to hear from consumers. She’s currently at capacity and turning people away.

Midwives have talked about the need to increase their ranks for a long time, according to Pullin, who says there are those who want to come here, but can’t get hospital privileges.

There haven’t been privileges for quite a while, she said.

“Women making their voices heard helps us a lot and hopefully that will change the policy and we’ll get to have more midwives,” she said.

Island Health reports nine midwives have active privileges and five midwives have locum privileges at the hospital. In comparison there are 11 general practitioners and six obstetrician-gynecologists with active privileges. The most recent midwife recruitment was June last year.

“We are aware that there have been concerns expressed about the number of midwives with active privileges at NRGH. The departments of obstetrics and of midwifery Island-wide will be connecting with site leadership at NRGH to review clinician resources,” said Val Wilson, Island Health spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

She said there’s no cap on the number of midwives that can be granted privileges, which depends on human resource needs of the facility.

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