Community-based midwife shortage in New Zealand, says College

on 20 November 2019

The New Zealand College of Midwives (NZCOM) has said there is a shortage of community-based midwives in New Zealand, which is leading to a “fragmented” level of care.

Deputy Chair of NZCOM, Sarah Gilbertson says that there are at least 15 full-time jobs unfilled in Wellington.

She said: “The hospital team doesn’t really provide continuity of care, as such, so effectively women are in the position where – because we don’t have enough midwives – they haven’t got any choice anymore. They’re literally getting what they’re given.”

Associate Health Minister, Julie Anne Genter, added that the current health system model in New Zealand doesn’t seem to serve pregnant women or midwives as well as it could.

She said: “The current module doesn’t seem to serve either pregnant women or midwives as well as it should. We need to do more to address working conditions including unsustainable hours and better integration between community and hospital midwives.”

Most regions across the country were reporting difficulties in retaining and recruiting midwifery staff, with many qualified staff being lured across the Tasman, with others leaving midwifery because of challenging working conditions.

NZCOM’s Alison Eddy said that the difficulties boiled down to the lack of funding and pay levels.

“District Health Boards are struggling to staff their maternity units adequately and pay for community midwives has fallen well behind levels sufficient to make midwifery a viable career.

“As resources are stretched, stresses develop within the maternity service and increasingly midwives are cutting their hours to manage stressful working environments, leaving the profession, or choosing to undertake short-term contract work in Australia,” she said.

Capital & Coast District Health Board has acknowledged its services were being affected by a midwife shortage but said that women could feel confident they would receive “safe quality care” from its services.

In New Zealand there are approximately 3,200 registered midwives, with around 2,800 working in hospitals or in the community.