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Support for new parents . . . South Canterbury District Health Board maternal child and youth service manager Teresa Back (left) and clinical midwife co-ordinator Fiona Hickson say the district is well-staffed with midwives. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

Finding the balance between being overworked and taking on clients to make a living is the challenge facing South Canterbury midwives, one woman says.

Lead maternity carer (LMC) midwife Gabby Grady, who is one of four working at Timaru pregnancy care centre Mama Midwives, said her colleagues were facing the same issues over pay and workloads as other midwives around the country.

“It’s the love of what we do [that keeps us going].”

However, South Canterbury District Health Board maternal child and youth service manager Teresa Back said there was a good number of midwives in the district to look after South Canterbury’s parents-to-be.

“Everyone [is] still being seen.”

There are five midwives employed by the SCDHB and about nine self-employed midwives, who deal with about 600 births a year.

Ms Back said a good number of midwives had settled in South Canterbury and it was a stable workforce, which was why the district was doing better than other regions.

She did not know of anyone unable to get care.

Miss Grady, who has been working as a midwife for three years, said the midwifery service was very much its own community and they all supported each other, but it was to the detriment of any work-life balance.

She supported the “Dear David” campaign, which was encouraging under-pressure midwives to send their work stories to Health Minister David Clark.

While she had not yet contributed to the campaign, all the things midwives had shared on the campaign’s Facebook page were stories of experiences she had also faced, Miss Grady said.

“[We all] face the same issues.”

She supported the campaign because midwives had not had a pay increase since 2007 and were also often on call 24/7, for which they were never paid.

“We are starting to burn out.”

The community-based midwives were also occasionally asked to provide secondary care – such as epidurals – if midwives at the hospital were busy, but were not paid extra for covering the shifts.

She said it was not about resenting their jobs, because they loved supporting parents-to-be, but the fact it was affecting the family life of the workers.

“[It is] our families that suffer.”

Her colleague, Rhiannon Fitzgerald, said all four of the women in the South Canterbury-based Mama Midwives group were busy with clients.

“We are all full.”

While Mrs Fitzgerald took on three to four pregnant women a month, her three other Mama Midwives colleagues were looking after four to six women a month.

“[They are] all maxed out.”

She said while her midwifery workmates would probably prefer to take on fewer clients, it was hard to turn down women who had approached them for their pregnancy care.

Her colleagues were good at referring clients to other midwives if they were booked out, but everyone seemed to be busy for the next few months, Mrs Fitzgerald said.

“Everyone’s reasonably full.”

All but one of the four Mama Midwives had young children and would cover for each other to take time off when necessary.

“It is really good.”

She said the one difficulty of working at capacity meant that if a midwife had a birth one day, all the other appointments with clients they had booked in that day had to be delayed.

This meant midwives would often be playing catch-up in their workloads.

“It’s always challenging.”